Written By: Matt Heckman
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MJ Melendez C | Omaha Storm Chasers | 23-Years-Old | Bats: R | Throws: R | 6’1″ | 190 lbs | ETA: 2022
MJ Melendez is a 23-year-old catcher in the Kansas City Royals organization. After making adjustments to his swing and approach, Melendez took the league by storm in 2021. He led the minor leagues in home runs hitting 41 across AA and AAA. With lighthouse power, an improving hit tool, and a cannon behind the plate Melendez will no doubt find himself in Kansas City at some point in 2022.
Melendez made a noticeable change to his swing in 2020. After struggling and leaving doubts about his hit ability, Melendez worked to adjust. He has discussed not only how he changed his approach at the plate, but how he is using a more open stance. This has allowed him to track the ball better and the results have shown. He keeps his hands low and loads up with a leg kick to help tap into his power. After hitting .163 in 2019, Melendez hit 0.285 in AA and 0.293 in AAA during 2021. He cut down his strikeout rate from over 39% to just over 21%. Melendez looks like a completely different hitter. Scouts once were consistent in grading him as a below average hitter, but he now profiles as above average.
While there have been questions about Melendez ability to hit, there has never been any doubt about his power. Using the previously mentioned leg kick, Melendez’s bat explodes through the zone. Melendez has exhibited an excellent ability to not only hit the ball in the air, but also pull the ball. Posting a Max EV of 113mph last season was just part of what propelled Melendez to the minor league home run crown. He continued this during the off season by winning a home run derby in the Bahamas. He has 30+ home run potential in the big leagues.
The speed for Melendez has already started to slow down. After stealing 7 bases in 2019, Melendez only stole three last season. Speed is not a big part of his game, but he is a catcher. Speed is not a calling card for most catchers. He does have good instincts in the field when he is not catching, but all in all he is a below average runner.
Field: 50 | Arm: 60
Melendez has the looks of an everyday catcher. He does a solid job framing pitches and works well with pitchers behind the plate. He is more athletic than people acknowledge and played third base in AAA last year. The Royals’ staff has commented saying that the team would feel comfortable with him playing 3B or OF during 2022 speaking to his athletic abilities. He also has a cannon for an arm which would play well behind the dish or in the field.
I think there is no doubt Melendez will be up in 2022. I already wrote an article earlier this offseason discussing his value which you can check out here! Melendez has the chance to instantly be a top catcher due to the likelihood of him getting to play every day. Not all catchers do this but with him playing OF, 3B, or DH he could play in more games as a way for the Royals to keep his bat in the lineup. He is basically free in fantasy drafts right now and needs to be picked up immediately before it is too late.