No. 2 KC Royals prospect MJ Melendez is in the majors

(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) /

Under any other circumstances, today’s breaking news that the KC Royals have promoted catcher MJ Melendez to the majors for the first time would be cause for celebration. It’s a move long anticipated by Kansas City fans, who’ve clamored for it since last season.

In context, however, the move must be taken for nothing more than what it is, a promotion based not on good present performance, but born instead of stop-gap necessity—the club needs a backup catcher after an in-game injury forced Cam Gallagher to the Injured List Sunday.

Melendez was immediately placed on the active roster and will be available when the Royals make up a previously postponed game with the Cardinals in St. Louis early Monday afternoon.

He will be interesting to watch.

MJ Melendez is a top KC Royals prospect who wasn’t hitting well in Triple-A.

Melendez arrives in the majors ranked by MLB Pipeline as Kansas City’s No. 2 prospect. (Although Bobby Witt Jr. is already a Royal, Pipeline lists him at No. 1).

But you wouldn’t know that from his 2022 numbers.

Melendez has been in a slump all season. He was 1-for-3 with a double in Triple-A Omaha’s game against Toledo Sunday, a reasonable performance that raised his average seven points to .167. His OBP is a subpar .286 and he’s slugging an unacceptable .295.

He’s hit only two home runs, driven in just six runs, and has only one multi-hit game, a two-double contest against Memphis April 24.

Those stats pale in comparison to the minor league-leading 41 homers he hit last year (a feat for which he earned the Joe Bauman Award), and the 103 RBIs and outstanding .288/.386/.625 line he posted between Northwest Arkansas and Omaha.

So, but for Gallagher’s injury, Melendez would likely be preparing for the Storm Chasers’ homestand against Columbus which starts Tuesday.

How will KC Royals manager Mike Matheny use MJ Melendez beginning Monday?

Don’t expect Melendez, 23, to play every day. He’s on the roster to back up Perez.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean Matheny will ban Melendez to the bench unless Perez takes one of his regular turns at DH, or rests for a day. Melendez is first in line to succeed Perez as the club’s regular catcher, but because Perez isn’t abdicating the spot anytime soon, the Royals would like to find a way to get Melendez’s bat in the big league lineup as often as possible … when he starts hitting like he can, that is.

Seeing Melendez in right field, where he’s played twice this season for Omaha, or perhaps even at third base, a position at which he’s dabbled before, won’t be shocking. And he’ll probably get a shot at DH.

At the end of the day, however, the Royals haven’t summoned Melendez to take anyone’s spot, but they won’t not let him simply ride the bench until Gallagher heals.

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MJ Melendez will soon play in his first major league game.