As the injury to Salvador Perez showed in 2019, the Kansas City Royals need more talent at the catching position and MJ Melendez could be the solution.
At 6-foot 1-inch tall, MJ Melendez is a lean left-handed hitting, excellent fielding catcher who was considered one of the top, if not the top, catchers in the 2017 draft. He played high school ball at Westminster Christian High in Miami, Florida and committed to playing for his father at Florida International University. However the Kansas City Royals came calling by selecting Melendez with the 52nd overall pick in the 2017 draft.
Although he wanted to help his father lead FIU to the College World Series for the first time, the lure of playing major league baseball and a signing bonus that was over $800k above the slot was enough for him to join the Kansas City Royals. Melendez was often regarded as having top tools as a catcher and potential at the plate.
"Unusually athletic and quick for a catcher, Melendez stands out for his defense. He has a 60-grade arm, a quick release, and the general athleticism more commonly associated with shortstops than backstops. As you’d imagine from the son of a head coach, he knows how to play the game and demonstrates stellar field leadership skills. His glove is undoubtedly excellent but opinions on his bat are mixed. When he’s right he shows good power to all fields but his swing is not consistent and needs more polish to work at higher levels. –minorleagueball.com"
As an 18-year-old in the Arizona Rookie League, Melendez handled himself very well. He slashed .262/.374/.417 and registered 20 assists from the catching position. The next year earned a call up to the Lexington Legends in the South Atlantic League. There his on-base percentage dropped but his power exploded with 19 home runs in 472 plate appearances. He earned a Mid-Season All-Star nomination and named a milb.com Organizational All-Star.
In 2019 Melendez was sent to the Kansas City Royals Advance-A team, the Wilmington Blue Rocks. The transition was tough offensively as he only batted .163 on the year with nine homers. Defensively, though, he was amazing throwing out 60 percent of the runners who attempted to steal while he was behind the plate. He also only committed six errors for a fielding percentage of .991.
Even with the set back in the batter’s box, Melendez is still listed as the Kansas City Royals #9 prospect and great things are expected of him in the future. With Salvador Perez getting older and the need to give him more days off when he is healthy, there is an opening to slowly take over the catching duties for the big league club. With a strong work ethic and the ability to be a general on the field, Melendez is getting closer to taking that role on.