Outfielder MJ Melendez was hardly a fan favorite in 2023, thanks to his ugly defense and poor start to the season. But there are signs to believe in him bouncing back. After all, if he doesn't, what value does he bring to Kansas City?
It is befuddling to me to see Melendez's even 0 fWAR across the 2023 season. At least he improved upon his negative mark in 2022, but not by much. Melendez was downright bad at the plate in 2023's opening half, as evident by his .622 OPS and 29.8% strikeout rate. Coupled with his historic struggles in the outfield, his outlook was bleak for the remainder of the season and beyond.
Like Blanco and McMillon, Melendez hit his stride last season after losing streaks and unwatchable games had fans tuning out. He turned things around at the plate with a .836 OPS and 10 home runs in the season's final half. He started drawing more walks, making more quality contact, and being an above-average batter.
I am begging, pleading, and now manifesting for Melendez to look competent in the outfield. The Royals coaching staff now has a whole season of tape and an offseason to correct his mistakes. If Melendez is even slightly below average in the field, fans will appreciate what he does at the plate more. 2024 is a crucial year for Melendez, and I believe he will impress fans with his response to two down years.
This time last year, people talked about Brady Singer being Kansas City's ace and Opening Day starter in 2023. Yet, the Florida alum had his worst professional season, sporting a 5.52 ERA and 1.447 WHIP in 29 starts. Unlike the players listed before him, Singer did not have a night-and-day change during the season. He did have an amazing eight-inning shutout performance against the New York Mets on Aug. 3, but that was the best start by a wide margin.
Singer still managed to lead all Kansas City starters in quality starts, while his nine tied for the 72nd most in all of baseball. Singer was the Royals' best starter, not named Cole Ragans, despite all of his shortcomings. The results were just not matching the process, which led to his great 2022 showing. His opponent's BABIP was 32 points higher than the league average, for what it is worth.
Like Melendez, there is no other option for Singer than to bounce back. Hopefully the additions this offseason and Ragans will push Singer further down the rotation's pecking order, both relieving some pressure on expectations while ratcheting up the expectation to produce. His unwillingness to expand his pitching arsenal has long been a point of fan criticism, and rightfully so. Nothing should be guaranteed for the 27-year-old righty in 2024, but Singer is a gamer. I expect he responds to the adversity by reminding us all why the Royals drafted him so high in the 2018 MLB Draft.