The Cincinnati Reds had three picks on day one of the 2021 Major League Baseball draft. They would select 17th, 30th, and 35th overall in the first round.

With their first pick they took UCLA shortstop Matt McLain. While I always say that the national draft rankings don’t mean much because there’s tons of variability from team to team on the players, people like them, so let’s look at them real quick. McLain was rated 10th in the draft by Baseball America, 11th by Eric Longenhagen and Kevin Goldstein at Fangraphs, 12th by MLB Pipleine, and 15th by Kiley McDaniel at ESPN. Going by that, the Reds got a player at 17 that shouldn’t have been there.

With their second pick of the night, the #30 overall pick that the Reds received as compensation for Trevor Bauer signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Cincinnati selected outfielder Jay Allen from John Carroll Catholic High School in Florida. He was rated as highly as 25th by ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel, but in the mid-30’s to mid-50’s at some other publications.

With the final pick of the night for the Reds the organization selected Florida State catcher Mat Nelson with the 35th overall pick. Cincinnati acquired this pick as a part of the yearly compensation round for small market teams. He had 40 extra-base hits this past season for the Seminoles. He was rated as highly as 37th by Fangraph’s Eric Longenhagen and Kevin Goldstein.

Quick Matt McLain Scouting Report

A 5′ 10″ and 170 lb. infielder, Matt McLain played some outfield as a freshman at UCLA before moving back to the infield where he spent most of his time at shortstop. It would seem most scouts believe he will wind up at second base in the long run, but if he does stick at shortstop he will be a below-average defender there. The Reds, however, think he can remain at shortstop long term. He does have above-average to plus speed and with his outfield experience there’s a chance he could wind up in centerfield in the long run as well.

Offensively Matt McLain projects to hit for a good average with a slightly above-average hit tool. He has below-average power potential, with 12-15 home runs seeming to be where most project him to land. On the bases, both in terms of base steal and simply running the bases, he should be above-average thanks to his speed.

McLain feels like a safe bet to be a big leaguer. It does feel like he’s lacking the big upside of your typical 1st round pick, though. The lack of power potential, at least according to the available scouting reports, just leaves you without that “star” upside unless he’s elite everywhere else in his game.

Quick Jay Allen Scouting Report

A three-sport star at John Carroll Catholic High School, Jay Allen never focused solely on baseball. One of the most athletic players in the 2021 draft class, he’s just scratching the surface on the baseball field. A potential 5-tool player, he doesn’t necessarily have a true plus tool in his arsenal, but all five of them could be average to above-average in the future.

As an outfielder he has enough speed to play center and enough arm to play in right if he eventually needs to move there because his frame fills out too much and he loses a step. A big riser on draft boards over the last year, his ability to hit for average and power could both be a bit above-average, and his speed should allow him to provide value on the base paths.

Quick Mat Nelson Scouting Report

There’s some high risk and high reward with Mat Nelson. He hit .330/.436/.773 with 17 doubles and 23 home runs for Florida State this past year. The power is very real and he can use it from foul pole to foul pole. What’s also seemingly real is his struggles with contact as he struck out 25% of the time he stepped to the plate as a 22-year-old junior this past season.

Behind the plate he’s got all you want to see from a catcher. He’s got a big arm, handles a pitching staff well, and there are no questions about his ability to handle catching responsibilities in the long term. Just how much he hits because of the strikeouts is a big question, but if he can make enough contact as a pro, there’s upside for a quality defender who can have a solid average and 25+ home runs in the future.

More information

As always, I did a bit more of a deep dive on each player over at There’s some video, stats, and quotes from scouting director Brad Meador on each player if you are so inclined to gather more information.

Day two of the draft will begin today at 1pm. You can follow along at and there will be rounds 2-10 with 1 minute between each selection. Day three will take place on Wednesday beginning at noon and will feature rounds 11-20. Picks will be “rapid fire” without any real delay between the selections. You can also follow along at on Wednesday to the conference call.

23 Responses

  1. Hotto4Votto

    In some ways this is eerily similar to the 2016 draft. The obvious exception is that Senzel was drafted much higher than McClain and was seen as a much better prospect. Still, Senzel was an infielder that was seen as a relatively safe/high floor pick amongst the group being considered. I know there was discussion about Riley Pint and Kyle Lewis on this board for that pick, but Senzel was the much safer pick (prior to all the injuries).
    Then the multi-sport OF in Trammell went next, noted for his athleticism. Then Okey, a solid defensive college C with some strike out issues went shortly after Trammell. Lots of similarities, not only the order and the positions but also in overall profile of players.

    • Jim Walker

      Interesting comparison. I am feeling a little edgy that there also seem to be questions about whether McClain can/ will stick as a SS. It would seem like the last thing the Reds need right now is an additional 3B or 2B prospect. At least he is already more of a known quantity as possible OF although his lack of power makes him questionable as an OF corner guy.

      • Hotto4Votto

        They definitely don’t need another 3B/2B type at the moment. I also agree that the fact he’s already played CF bodes well. It seems the guys on the ESPN broadcast seemed to believe there’s more pop there than what I’ve seen written up. If the power can play up a bit he’s a solid fit for CF or 2B if he can’t stick at SS.

  2. TOM

    Why in the heck do the Reds pick 3 offensive players when there biggest weakness is pitching? I don’t get it.

    Edited by the mods

    • Jonathan Linn

      @ Tom – I believe its because its rare for a draftee to jump start from HS or College to the MLB level and compete the same year he is drafted. Mike Leake is the last player that i’m aware of that made the jump to MLB without any Minor league experience. He didn’t play the year he was drafted either.

      Sam Bachman of the current draft was the only person I heard them talking about last night that “may” make the jump to the Angles bullpen this year.

      Most college players take 1-3 years to reach the MLB if they’re going to and HS players take even longer. MLB is very different from NBA and NFL drafts.

    • RojoB

      Lots of pitching in the pipeline. This draft isn’t about fixing the bullpen

      Reds need hitters that can get in base to fill their system—it’s been a long tine coming and we’re only now starting to see the advantages of that approach in India and Stephenson

      • bug

        Yes. I mostly want players that make good contact,..i.e. can get a bat on the ball. I don’t care if it’s trendy, you don’t compete in the post season with these home run hitters that strike out 200 times/year. I’ve had my fill of them. Power is fine,..but striking out a lot is not!!! Jmo.

    • Doug Gray

      First thing – watch the language.

      Second – because this is baseball and players take YEARS to get to the big leagues, not weeks. You can’t, nor should you ever draft for “what the big league team needs” because those things will be different if the player you select ever even gets there. Once you reach the 10th pick in the draft, the average player selected there is not even an average big league player.

      • Broseph

        I agree with this, plus the Reds have not been good at selecting pitching prospects. Since 2000, they have 13 pitchers that could be MLB ready (Lodolo would be 14 but hes only been in affiliate leagues for a season with 2020)

        Out of 13. Only 3 have made major league contributions worth noting – Leake, Boxberger, Lorenzen.

        Both Boxberger and Lorenzen are debatable, they’ve made contributions but first round pick contributions? Iffy.

        Most of the Reds 1st round picks never played a game in the big leagues. All MLB drafts are gambles, but pitchers seem to be an even harder prediction than position players.

      • Broseph

        The 13 pitching selections I referenced are first round / first pick selections. I’m sure the percentages are much worse in later rounds.

      • Michael A Smith


        You skipped over Bailey who was pretty good for a few years.

  3. Rednat

    i like the picks. hitting, baserunning and defense is at premium in mlb right now and i expect this to be the case for years to come. plenty of good pitching out there right now

  4. B-town fan

    McClain seems to be shirking, yesterday everywhere I saw he was listed at 5′ 11″ 180 now he’s 5′ 10″ 170. Overall seems to be 3 solid picks with Allen being a possible big upside sleeper.

  5. doofus

    To Matt McLain I say: “Welcome to the party Pal!”

  6. ClevelandRedsFan

    .333 college hitter with 23 bombs in the SEC. Nelson’s stats are very similar to another SEC college player who is now on the Reds. That guy hit .350 with 21 bombs. That guy’s name is Jonathan India and he’s a ROY candidate.

  7. JayTheRed

    So looking at the 1st round and supplemental picks I would say we did ok..

    I have to say overall I feel like the Reds picked up guys who probably at the minimum will be major league backup guys at worst and at best slightly above average players at best. All the picks feel safe to me.. I think Mclain has a chance to be something better and if he makes it to the big leagues as a Red he will hit close to 20 HR in our ballpark I think. I hope he stays at SS personally but if he ends up being a CF then I am fine with that too.

    Not really sure what to think of Allen, He is athletic though and hopefully that helps him with defense and speed some. When they picked him I just had this feeling of meh… Hopefully he shows me something in the minors.

    I feel like Matt Nelson is the sleeper here. Guy has put up some pretty good numbers so far and I am anxious to see what he can do in the minors. He seems to get on base a lot and that is something the future Reds really do need. Like that he has pretty good ratings on defense already and an above average arm to boot.

    Will be interesting to see if we start going for some pitching in the next round or if they will continue to focus on getting productive hitters.

    • RedBB

      Agree….I can’t believe we didn’t pick Ty Madden at 30!

    • doofus

      Nelson: 2021 Johnny Bench award winner for college catcher.

  8. eddiek957

    I like the McClain pick. Kid looks like a ball player

    • doofus

      Reminds me of Zac Cozart with much better tools.

  9. doofus

    I remember when the scouts/pundits said that Ozzie Guillen and a guy named Larkin did not have good arms, and were borderline players. Hyperbole.

    I think the Reds have a player in McLain. If you read what they say about him, you will see that he is a dirt bag, a grinder, a Cincinnati type of player.

    • Alan Horn

      The greatest player I saw without much of an arm was Ozzie Smith(SS for the Cardinals).