Welcome back to Kings of Kauffman’s KC Royals Projections series for 2022. Between now and Opening Day, our writers are analyzing how various Royals performed last season and predicting how they might fare this year. Up today is MJ Melendez.
Catcher MJ Melendez had more than a bounce-back year in 2021. After slashing a poor .163/.260/.311 with nine home runs and 54 RBIs in 2019 in High-A ball, Melendez literally smashed his way through the KC Royals minor leagues last season.
In his very first game at Double-A Northwest Arkansas, Melendez was red hot, hitting two home runs with four RBIs. He slashed .324/.422/.662 with seven home runs, 18 RBIs and 13 walks in May. Despite a poor June that dropped his overall average to .262, Melendez climbed back up to a great .285/.372/.628 slash with a 1.000 OPS and 28 home runs before being promoted to Triple-A Omaha in August.
Omaha is where Melendez spent the remainder of the 2021 season, and he continued to make a crushing impact, slashing .293/.413/.620 with a 1.033 OPS and 13 home runs, 38 RBIs and 32 walks. Overall, he ended up slashing .288/.386/.625 with a 1.011 OPS, 41 home runs, 103 RBIs and 75 walks.
And he won the Joe Bauman Award for leading the minor leagues in home runs.
How will he fare this season?
How FanGraphs projects MJ Melendez will perform for the KC Royals in 2022.
FanGraphs (Depth Chart version) projects Melendez will participate in 53 games with the Royals and slash .246/.318/.465 with 10 home runs, 30 RBIs and 21 walks.
How MJ Melendez will actually perform for the KC Royals this season.
There’s no question Melendez is special—he made MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 big league prospect rankings at No. 51 and is Pipeline’s No. 2 Kansas City prospect.
Melendez has appeared in every Cactus League game so far and is playing well. He’s hitting .362 (4-for-11) with a .462 OBP through Thursday. His RBI single last Sunday pulled the Royals within one run of Arizona in a contest Kansas City eventually won 11-10.
The main issue for Melendez is that while he’s a top prospect and will get to the majors this season, he’s currently stuck in Salvador Perez’s line of succession. But that may not be an issue for long.
Perez won’t spend every game behind the plate. Presumably, Melendez will be able to switch between catcher and DH throughout the season once he’s called up. And an infield spot may be another option—Melendez is no stranger to third base, having spent nine games there while in Omaha and practicing a bit there this spring
Most likely, though, Melendez will spend the majority of the time catching. And while FanGraphs gives him a fair amount of home runs and walks in 53 games, his average should be around at least the .253 mark. That’s dependent, however, on the amount of playing time he gets in Kansas City this year.
MJ Melendez will have a decent season when he gets to Kansas City.