C, MJ Melendez, second round, pick No. 52, Westminster Christian (Miami)
It’s generally a good sign for a draft class — and a bad sign for the farm system as a whole — when a second-round pick immediately becomes one of the 10 best players in the system. But that’s what happened when the Kansas City Royals selected MJ Melendez with the 52nd pick in the 2017 draft.
A left-handed hitting catcher, Melendez went to high school in Miami and became an all-American at Westminster Christian. Unlike many selected after him by the organization, he came straight out of high school. That gives him plenty of time to improve and grow as a player. The fact that Salvador Perez (and his long-term deal) currently holds down the catching duties with the Royals gives Melendez even more leeway.
Melendez, who just turned 19, joins a rather deep position — arguably the second-deepest in the farm system behind first base. Besides himself (No. 10), Chase Vallot (No. 12) and Meibrys Viloria (No. 17) land among the top 20 prospects in the system, according to MLB.com’s rankings. Viloria recently found himself on the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. But Melendez clearly has the most upside in the group and is projected by MLB.com to reach the majors by 2021.
This past season saw Melendez play in 47 games for the Royals’ affiliate in the Arizona League. He slashed .262/.374/.417. Only 15 of his 44 hits were of the extra-base variety. Melendez accounted for 55 runs — 25 scored and 30 driven in. His 60 strikeouts were more than you would want, but he did walk a respectable 26 times. That being said, his best attributes are his arm and his defense, meaning the solid offensive production is just a nice bonus.