A recent first-round pick, a key trade piece and a couple of Cincinnati Reds 40-man roster members highlight those expected to begin this season with the Chattanooga Lookouts.
The Lookouts are scheduled to start their 138-game Double-A South schedule Friday night against the Tennessee Smokies in Kodak, with their AT&T Field opener versus the Birmingham Barons set for April 12.
Matt McLain, a former UCLA shortstop selected 17th overall by Cincinnati in last summer's Major League Baseball draft, is bound for Chattanooga after hitting .273 with 19 RBIs in 29 games last year for the high Single-A Dayton (Ohio) Dragons. The No. 4 organizational prospect according to MLB.com hit .286 with an RBI in five big-league games this spring.
"We're very excited to have Matt," Reds vice president for player development Shawn Pender said from Cincinnati's spring training site in Goodyear, Arizona. "He's played exceptionally well in the big-league games he's been asked to play in here. He's a young man who is very confident and also very calm. He's a very good defender with a strong arm, and he's got a short, compact swing.
"Although this is a push to a higher level, he looks like he's up for the task."
Pender said most of the 2022 Lookouts are scheduled to fly out of Arizona late Sunday night and arrive in Chattanooga late Monday morning.
Chattanooga's top pitcher could be Brandon Williamson, a 6-foot-6, 210-pound left-hander who was acquired last month through a trade that sent Reds outfielder Jesse Winker, a National League All-Star last year, to Seattle. Williamson was a second-round pick of the Mariners in 2019 and quickly became MLB.com's No. 5 Reds prospect.
"I think Brandon is going to throw in our last big-league game here on Tuesday and will fly out Wednesday and will be scheduled to fit into the rotation," Pender said. "He's best friends and a former (TCU) roommate of Nick Lodolo, and it's been fun to see those two catch up and connect. He's got a strong, four-pitch mix and is made of the right stuff to have a good season in Chattanooga with the opportunity to move up depending on how well he does."
Chattanooga's two players on Cincinnati's 40-man roster are Jared Solomon, a right-handed pitcher coming off Tommy John surgery, and catcher Mark Kolozsvary, who played 40 games for last season's Lookouts and was a member of the Olympic team.
Pender said to also keep an eye on center fielder Mike Siani, a defensive whiz who was signed by the Reds for $2 million in 2018 but hit just .216 last season in Dayton.
"I think this group is a little younger than the last one," Pender said. "Obviously Hunter and Nick were two unique individuals, but there are similarities to last year, and there will be some repeat guys."