KC Royals: Rookie MJ Melendez is proving he belongs

(Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports)
(Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports) /

Everyone who knows anything about KC Royals baseball knew it was coming. Leaving hot catching prospect MJ Melendez in the minors for long wasn’t an option, not after the way he stormed through Double-A and Triple-A last year with a minor league-best and award-winning 41 home runs, 103 RBIs and a .286/.386/.625 line.

But when the Royals called him up from Omaha immediately after their May 1 game, they did so not out of an overwhelming sense he was ready for the majors, but instead because Cam Gallagher’s injury that day forced their trusty backup catcher to the Injured List. The club needed an immediate replacement, and Melendez was the logical choice.

And although he was, with the obvious exception of seven-time All-Star Salvador Perez, the best backstop in the organization, Melendez’s performance at Omaha proved that nothing more than necessity triggered his promotion. His hitting was awful when the call came—a .167 average, .286 OBP and .286 SLG weren’t major league-worthy.

That, though, was then. This is now, and Melendez appears to be in the majors to stay.

MJ Melendez has established himself as an everyday player for the KC Royals.

Melendez’s debut, a start as designated hitter, came two days after the Royals summoned him to Kansas City. Manager Mike Matheny batted him seventh; after grounding out in the second inning and flying out in the fourth, Melendez slapped a single off St. Louis starter Dakota Hudson in the sixth. He also walked and scored his first big league run the next inning.

Melendez got another hit when he started behind the plate the next day, slammed his first major league home run against Chicago May 17, and hit another homer the next night. He had five multi-hit games and a respectable .259/.326/.481 line when May ended. And as June arrived, Melendez’s role had evolved from backup catcher on a temporary pass to a hot player who’d forced the Royals to find ways to play him every day.

And that’s just what they’ve done. Melendez has appeared in 32 of 35 games the club’s played since his first action May 3. He catches when Perez doesn’t, DH’s when Hunter Dozier, Perez or Carlos Santana don’t, and right field when Whit Merrifield moves to second base.

And the rookie is slashing .268/.344/.500 with six homers, six doubles, a triple and 16 RBIs after going 2-for-4 with a home run, double and three RBIs in KC’s 8-1 victory over Baltimore Friday night, a single-game performance providing the most recent evidence of his suitability for major league service.

He doubled in Kansas City’s three-run first. Then, just in case anyone questioned his ability to hold his own in right field, he made a spectacular diving, layout catch to end the fifth inning.

Then, in the bottom of the same inning, Melendez let his bat do the talking:

The three-run blast gave the Royals a 7-0 lead and sealed, for all practical purposes, a third straight win that guarantees them no worse than a series split with the Orioles.

Simply put, Melendez is doing it all for Kansas City.

Next. Has O'Hearn found his niche?. dark

It looks like MJ Melendez is here to stay.