Kansas City Royals: Melendez, Pratto sent to hitting camp

Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images
Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images /

The Kansas City Royals’ first- and second-round picks from the 2017 MLB Draft are headed to Surprise, Arizona to work on hitting.

Although the regular season may be over for the Kansas City Royals, their prospects are never done working on improving their games. Per MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan, both MJ Melendez and Nick Pratto are headed to Surprise, Arizona to focus on hitting:

Pratto and Melendez were the Royals’ first two picks in the 2017 MLB Amateur Draft. Both have been faced with high expectations since the day they entered the organization. Both were considered future members of the next contending core. Things haven’t exactly unfolded as the team would have liked, thus prompting the duo being sent to the hitting camp in Surprise.

A left-handed hitting and throwing first baseman, Pratto posted a batting average of 0.247 and hit four home runs in 52 games with the Burlington Royals in 2017. The following season, as a member of the Lexington Legends, Pratto’s performance improved drastically. Hitting for a line of 0.280/0.343/0.443 with 14 home runs and 62 RBIs, it seemed as if the California kid had started to figure things out. That was until this past season, at least.

In Advanced-A ball with the Wilmington Blue Rocks, Pratto’s line took a sharp decline to 0.191/0.278/0.310. Striking out a whopping 164 times in 124 games, this was not the level of production the Royals envisioned when they drafted him out of high school. July was his most respectable month, as his average (0.241) and slugging percentage (0.446) were each easily his best of the year.

Melendez’s career trajectory has unfolded similarly to that of his Wilmington teammate, Pratto. In his first career minor league season, the 6-foot-1 catcher hit 0.262 with four home runs in 47 games. 2018 saw an improvement in performance, with Melendez tapping into his very solid raw power. Both his batting average and OBP took minor dips, but he managed to club 26 doubles and 19 home runs in 111 games.

Like Pratto, everything fell apart for Melendez once he was promoted to Wilmington. He slashed 0.163/0.260/0.311, completely sapped of both on-base ability and power on offense. Melendez also struck out 165 times. Spending some time at designated hitter didn’t help one bit. Overall, it was a dreadful season for the promising prospect. He still has good power potential and brings more-than-serviceable defense to the table, providing hope that he’ll turn things around in time to make an impact on the MLB roster one day.

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There’s still time left for both Nick Pratto and MJ Melendez to resurrect their young careers. Pratto just turned 21 years old and Melendez will join him in less than two months. Nonetheless, striking out so many times at a low level is concerning. Here’s to hoping this year’s hitting camp will assist both high-round draft picks in getting back on track ahead of the 2020 season.