Matt McLain is plenty big enough to be a professional baseball player at the highest level. He’s bigger than many who’ve already done so. Based on his 5’11” 180 lb listed height and weight, he’s almost exactly my size, so take that into account when I say the following:
Every picture we have access to that has McLain in it features a helmet that just looks huge on him.
I’m blaming it on Brian Robinson of the Washington Commanders who has henceforth and forever more created an optical illusion regarding hat-wear that I doubt we’ll recover from quickly.
Anyway, McLain’s solid glovework across the middle infield, ability to play some CF, good contact ability (prior to his power surge approach at AA this year), and plus baserunning has landed him at spot #6 on the 2023 Red Reporter Community Prospect Rankings, edging out a pair of his competitors for the spot by the slimmest of margins. Hopefully his power/average adjustments round fully into form for AAA Louisville to begin this upcoming season, because doing so will get him back on track for a late 2023 MLB debut.
On to the voting for spot #7!
Brandon Williamson, LHP - 25 years old
2022 at a glance: 4.11 ERA, 9.0 K/9, 5.6 BB/9, 1.56 FIP in 122.2 IP split between Chattanooga Lookouts (AA Southern League) and Louisville Bats (AAA International League)
Pros: Four-pitch mix with deceptive fastball that works well up in the zone to 96 mph; lanky lefty delivery; sweeping 12-6 curveball
Cons: Lost command in a bad, bad way in 2022, with walks an issue as he failed to find the strike zone with consistency
The most visible piece of the deal that sent Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suarez to the Seattle Mariners, Williamson comes with all the tools in the world. He’s a 6’6” lefty who was teammates at TCU with Nick Lodolo and, if you squint, there are plenty of comps between the two.
While Nick is already excelling in the bigs, however, Williamson is in need of refining his delivery and command, as that’s what has held him back so far. If he gets it back, though, he’s got all the makings of an impact starter for the Reds as soon as this year, and is the most ready-made big league arm in the system at the moment.
Chase Petty, RHP - 20 years old
2022 at a glance: 3.48 ERA, 8.8 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, 1.17 WHIP in 98.1 IP split between Daytona Tortugas (Class-A Florida State League) and Dayton Dragons (High-A Midwest League)
Pros: Rare combo of fastball that flirts with triple-digits and the ability to still hit the strike zone; developing slider with potential to be a devastating secondary offering
Cons: Third pitch (changeup) needs improvement; ‘max-effort’ delivery potential might limit his workload
Petty, the prize of the deal that sent Sonny Gray to Minnesota, was a 1st round pick of the Twins back in 2021 and has the talent to warrant it, in hindsight. He topped out at 102 mph in high school with his heater, and while he has scaled that back a bit as a professional the arm talent is clearly there.
On top of that, the impressive overall first season he produced in the Reds system came as a 19 year old, and while in High-A Dayton for the final third of the season he was over 4 years younger than the average player in the league. Clearly, the Reds trust his stuff, and while he’ll need a better third offering to truly convince us he’ll be able to stick it out as a starter long-term, the idea that he’ll be able to further refine that pitch given time is absolutely there. Honestly, his proximity to the big leagues - 2025 is likely the earliest we’ll see him - is the only thing that’s denting his overall status, in my mind.
Spencer Steer, IF - 25 years old
2022 at a glance: .274/.364/.515 with 23 HR, 30 2B in 492 PA split between Wichita Wind Surge (AA Texas League), St. Paul Saints (AAA International League), and Louisville Bats (AAA International League); .211/.306/.326 with 2 HR in 108 PA with Cincinnati Reds
Pros: Average to above-average just about everywhere, with solid plate discipline, decent pop, and enough defense to play all over the infield
Cons: If you’re a glass-half-empty kind of person, you just read his Pros and saw nothing jump off the page
Is Spencer Steer the next Todd Frazier? Can cover SS if need be, but pretty competent defending all over the place on the dirt. Can bonk some homers, though ‘homer bonker’ isn’t exactly what you think of when you first see him. Does just about everything well and, in a pinch, is the perfect player to slot-in as a replacement part so the whole machine doesn’t skip a beat.
Wouldn’t that be nice?
The parallels are certainly there, and that’s a good thing for Steer. Frazier, after all, had a helluva big league career even if he did block every single person who ever existed on Twitter. Steer’s skillset seems quite similar in that he can hit for decent enough average, doesn’t strike out at an alarming rate, has solid pop, and owns a glove that’ll play anywhere. The only thing that could spell for him, of course, is landing at #2 on the depth chart everywhere because he can instead of ever winning spot #1 anywhere. At worst, though, that’s the kind of good utility player all good teams have, though it does look like he’ll get a shot to show he’s an everyday 3B beginning on Opening Day this year.
Connor Phillips, RHP - 22 years old
2022 at a glance: 3.78 ERA, 12.3 K/9, 5.4 BB/9, 1.17 WHIP in 109.2 IP split between Dayton Dragons (High-A Midwest League) and Chattanooga Lookouts (AA Southern League)
Pros: Elite stuff, Trackman darling; Swing and miss stuff with three-pitch mix
Cons: Control issues, especially once he reached AA
The late-announced piece that made the trade of Eugenio Suarez and Jesse Winker to Seattle slightly more palatable, Phillips certainly is the exact kind of arm that makes teams invest in pitching coaches. Arms like his simply don’t come along super often, but carving his precision down to being measured in centimeters instead of meters seems to be the work in progress.
His fastball can touch 98 mph, he’s got a big bender of a curve that’ll freeze anyone on its day, and a slider that’ll tempt even the best hitters to swing over it and out of their shoes. Of course, there are also days where it’s obvious early that he’s missing his spots, at which point opposing hitters know to simply take their pitches and eventually first base.
Keep in mind that Phillips just turned 21 years old a month into the 2022 season, and after switching organizations and earning a promotion to AA Chattanooga was nearly 3.5 years younger than the average batter he faced there. The hope is that the Reds and their pitching gurus can harness his ability, and if so they’ll have a gem of a pitcher for the future of their rotation.
Sal Stewart, 3B - 19 years old
2022 at a glance: .292/.393/.458 in 28 PA with the Reds Arizona Complex League (ACL); drafted 32nd overall by the Reds in the 2022 MLB Draft
Pros: Advanced RH bat with plenty of power projected; good arm at 3B
Cons: Might end up a bit too big and lumbering to stick at 3B
Cincinnati Reds pitching guru Derek Johnson spent a ton of time working as the pitching coach for Vanderbilt under head coach Tim Corbin, who’s still running the show there today. The work there by the two turned the program into a perennial national title contender and formed bonds between Johnson and many of his players - many of whom have swung through Cincinnati since Johnson joined the Reds with success in varying roles. Sonny Gray has pitched at an All Star level, Curt Casali has been here for two stints now, and Caleb Cotham rose through the coaching ranks to land the Phillies pitching coach job, for instance.
So, when the Reds drafted Sal Stewart 32nd overall last summer and gave him enough money to forgo his commitment to play at Vandy, I’m guessing there was a good bit of information exchanged on the kid. That his reputation as perhaps the best HS bat out there preceded him was obvious; I’m simply hypothesizing that the Reds leveraged that kind of relationship to know as much as they could about Stewart, and that all they heard was positive, positive, positive.
That makes his skillset of being big with both plus pop and contact ability incredibly intriguing, even if defense isn’t his calling card. The bat, folks, will make him move through the ranks incredibly fast, beginning in Daytona this spring.
Who is the #7 prospect in the Cincinnati Reds system?
This poll is closed