2 top KC Royals prospects try to fend off bad memories

(Mandatory Credit: Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports)
(Mandatory Credit: Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports) /

With each passing day this season, the major leagues have curled a figurative beckoning finger at top KC Royals prospects MJ Melendez and Nick Pratto, reminding them how close each are to the The Show’s threshold.

It is a position both have earned. Melendez and Pratto, currently ranked by MLB Pipeline as the organization’s second and third best prospects, enjoyed huge 2021 seasons split between Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha. Melendez hit .288 with a 1.011 OPS, drove in 103 runs and led the minor leagues with 41 homers, while Pratto clubbed 36 home runs, fell just short of 100 RBIs with 98, and hit .265 with a .988 OPS.

And this year’s shortened spring training didn’t dampen the outlook for either player. Although the Royals returned both to Omaha to begin the regular season, Melendez slashed .412/.474/.647 and Pratto posted a .333/.545/.667 line. Kansas City’s continuing big league roster crunch left no room for either player, and the club may have believed both needed a bit more seasoning.

But deep slumps at Omaha have threatened to revive memories of their awful 2019 seasons when both failed miserably at the plate.

Fortunately, though, Pratto is heating up.

And late Sunday afternoon, his cold bat notwithstanding, Melendez discovered he’s headed for the big leagues—an injury to backup catcher Cam Gallagher earlier in the day forced the Royals to summon him to Kansas City to serve as Salvador Perez’s backup.

So, as Pratto works to restore his stroke to 2021 form, Melendez will try to find his with the Royals. Neither can afford to fail.

KC Royals prospects MJ Melendez and Nick Pratto want to forget 2019.

Their 2019 struggles amplified the importance of last season for Pratto and Melendez; both had stellar 2018 campaigns before terrible slumps struck a year later.

Whose fall was worse is debatable. Both played at Low-A Lexington in 2018: Pratto hit .280, homered 14 times and drove in 62 runs and Melendez hit .251 with 19 homers and 73 RBIs.

But in 2019 at High-A Wilmington, Pratto plunged to .191 and Melendez to .163. Both had nine homers.

The Royals, though, didn’t give up. They selected both players for the 60-man Player Pool that spent the pandemic-impacted 2020 campaign honing skills at the club’s Alternate Training Site, then promoted them to Double-A to begin 2021, and that’s where the previous summer’s work began to pay off.

After good 2021 seasons, MJ Melendez and Nick Pratto have struggled in 2022.

Their successful 2021 performances haven’t carried over for Melendez and Pratto. Melendez’s plate battles have been the most pronounced; before Kansas City called him up Sunday, he was hitting .167 with two homers and six RBIs in 21 games.

Pratto has also struggled—his average dropped to .197 after he went 0-for-8 in the first two games of Omaha’s series with Toledo earlier this week. But he went 2-for-4 with a single and double in the third contest, 3-for-4 with a homer, double and two RBIs Saturday, then finished the series by going 2-for-4 with another homer and RBI Sunday. Now, his average us up to .253 and he has five homers and 16 RBIs.

But he’s also struck out 31 times in 83 at-bats.

So it is that memories of their ugly 2019 seasons hover near Melendez and Pratto. And although Pratto shows solid signs of renewed offensive life, even a brief cold spell could conjure up thoughts of what went wrong three seasons ago. He needs to keep his suddenly hot bat hot.

Perhaps work with Kansas City’s big league staff can help Melendez cure what ails him at the plate, although that staff has enough on its plate with the poorly performing Royals. He’ll see a few at-bats a week until Gallagher gets back, and is a good bet to return to Omaha unless he begins hitting and the major league club can find an everyday role for him.

Next. Starters were stellar in Chicago. dark

Let’s hope Nick Pratto’s recent resurgence continues, and MJ Melendez finds some hitting luck in Kansas City.