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2021 MLB Draft: Could Arizona reunite with prospect Matt McLain?

The D-backs took McLain with their first-round pick in 2018 before attending UCLA, the two sides have a chance to meet again.

Matt McLain is a familiar name to the Arizona Diamondbacks organization.

The Tustin, Calif. native was drafted 25th overall by the Diamondbacks in 2018 out of Beckham High School. Negotiations looked optimistic on both sides until McLain informed the Diamondbacks he will attend UCLA, turning down a $2.6 million signing bonus in the process.

McLain has significantly raised his draft stock, as he headlines a deep up-the-middle class for 2021. Arizona holds the sixth overall pick in this year’s draft and could potentially “reunite” with its former selection.

During the pandemic-shortened 2020 college baseball season, McLain was in the midst of a monstrous sophomore campaign. He posted a .397/.422/.621 slash line with four doubles, three home runs and a team-best 19 RBIs in 58 at-bats. McLain was rated as the No. 3 sophomore hitter in the country heading into the year by D1Baseball’s analytical ratings. As a freshman in 2019, he ranked as the No. 7 prospect in the Cape Cod League by Baseball America.

Standing at 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds, McLain packs a bevy of tools in his smaller and compact frame. He makes consistent, loud contact to all fields and has shown glimpses of power offensively. His smooth right-handed swing and simple mechanics at the plate helps him use the entire strike zone.

Along with his advanced hit tool, McLain has great athleticism that helps him cover ground defensively. His speed and quickness is utilized all over the field. Questions remain if McLain can tap into more raw power at the next level, but his polished hit tool and advanced approach bode well for his future. When he finds a suitable pitch to drive, he takes advantage with an impactful swing.

McLain showed glimpses of more power this season during a wood bat independent league in Santa Barbara. He has the upcoming spring to showcase more power with UCLA, which could further raise his draft stock.

Defensively, McLain seems to fit the bill at shortstop. He has a natural feel for the position with smooth glove-to-hand transfers and great instincts. His quick arm action make all the necessary throws from the dirt.

McLain started 19 games at shortstop for the Bruins last season, but he played primarily in the outfield as a freshman with 49 starts in center field. Time will tell if he ultimately sticks at shortstop long term, he could potentially switch to second base.

The Diamondbacks have the opportunity to take a premier prospect with the No. 6 overall pick, and McLain could be available when they’re on the clock. A heavy run of college pitchers could leave Arizona with a prime prospect pool of up-the-middle infielders, and McLain’s resumé at the college level clearly stands out.

It’s still very early in the draft process–and college baseball hasn’t begun—but it will be interesting to see if McLain could be picked by the D-backs once again. He left Arizona and opted for UCLA instead in 2018, now the two sides can potentially reunite for the 2021 MLB Draft with a larger signing bonus on the table.