MJ Melendez has the chance to prove his catching skills to the KC Royals.
MJ Melendez’s marvelous 2021 season—the 41 home runs he slammed in a campaign split between Double-A and Triple-A led the minor leagues and he slashed .288/.386/.625—cemented his status as Salvador Perez’s successor behind the Kauffman Stadium plate. And with 43 major league games under his belt courtesy of the April callup he received when Cam Gallagher went on the IL, he’s proving he’ll be able to hit big league pitching.
But Melendez doesn’t come without at least once concern—his defense. He’s made four errors and has three passed balls in 30 appearances behind the plate; his .979 fielding percentage is 15 points below league average and his DWAR is -0.7. Baseball Savant ranks him 58th in pitch framing and The Fielding Bible gives him a dismal -9 total catching defensive runs saved.
No one expects Melendez’s defensive abilities to match those of five-time Gold Glover Perez, but they’ll have to get better if he wants to catch primarily instead of playing right field or DH-ing most of the time. Perez’s absence allows his protégé more time to refine his skills—Manager Mike Matheny will give Melendez, not Gallagher, the lion’s share of catching time, and Perez and Gallagher will have more time to help the rookie improve defensively.
It’s a golden opportunity for Melendez. And the Royals.