Written by: Josh Weil
Follow him on Twitter: @WheelzWrites
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C MJ Melendez – 21 Years Old
Height 6-1 Weight 185 ETA: 2023
MJ Melendez is a catching prospect for the Kansas City Royals, and boy is that the perfect home for him. He is a very exciting prospect, but a late bloomer already at 21 years of age. Lucky for MJ, Salvador Perez, the face of the Royals franchise, is locked into his position. Normally this would not be ideal for a top prospect, but with M.J. taking a step back in 2019, they have no reason to panic and give him all of the time he needs to figure it out. After 2018, a lot of people would have told you Melendez was a can’t miss and after 2019 a lot of people would have pulled the plug, here at Prospects Worldwide we use the numbers to not overreact, but give credit where it is due.
2018 was the first full season of professional season for MJ Melendez and boy did he burst onto the scene. At A-ball, he hit .251 with a BABIP of .327, showing that this was not a matter of luck, but he performed as expected, considering his K%. It is without a doubt that swing and miss will be a part of Melendez’s game going forward, but with a 9% increase from A to A+, the alarm bells went off for evaluators. He hit .163 with decreases in line-drive %, wOBA, and all important stats, aside from a slight increase in BB%. Going forward, M.J. needs to refine his approach and try not to bite off more than he can chew.
While none of this seems promising, there is truly a reason to believe in M.J., as this decrease across the board was directly related to his inconsistent mechanics. You can tell from the video below that he uses a big leg kick in some swings and in others he does not step at all. Thinking about what approach to use could absolutely throw off your game, and that is what I think the issue is here.
Melendez possesses the raw power to hit homers at the big league level, he just needs to fill out a bit more. If 2018 is any indication, he can be a real force to be reckoned with from the left side of the plate. With an OPS of .814, this is the future that the Royals hope to see, instead of his 2019 which was nothing short of dreadful.
As I spoke about earlier, when you aren’t making contact, it is hard to get into any sort of rhythm, that and striking out in nearly 40 percent of your at-bats. He took away his leg kick, which seems to be where he generates his power and torque, and his numbers dipped as a result. His line-drive percentage dipped and even with a fly ball rate of almost 50% (up from 2018), he still dropped in ISO by 90 points and in Home Runs from 19 to 9 in 111 and 110 respectively.
MJ Melendez is very, very athletic for a catcher, and it shows in how well he runs. He will never steal more than a handful of bases, as he has shown a tendency to take a few, but also get caught, with a career SB% of 53.5%. Even after he develops physically, he won’t make or break his career with his ability to run the bases, but it always nice to have people who are multifaceted on your team.
Fielding: 60/60 – Arm: 60/60
Melendez is the complete package as a catcher. He calls the games at these very low minor league levels, and does so very well. Melendez has also caught 36 of 60 runners (60%) attempting to steal on him in 2019. His defense has always been his best skill, with an electric arm, quick feet and quick hands, he will be very hard for runners to steal on for years to come.
Look for his career going forward to be closer to 2018 than last year, but there is a significant amount of work to be done if he wants to be anything close to Salvy. While I do believe he will be able to have a nice MLB career, I do not think he will ever be a consistent .300 hitter, he does have the potential to make some noise with the raw power he possesses. On the current path he is on, I am going to make a MLB Comparison: Left-handed hitting Tyler Flowers. I think for MJ his K% will limit his ability to really get hot for more than a few games at a time, and as a result, he will make his name with his defense.