Grading the 2022 KC Royals: Rookie MJ Melendez

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

MJ Melendez made certain in 2021 that he wouldn't be denied a trip to the major leagues in 2022.

The numbers he put up in a season divided between Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha proved he was worthy of promotion. Melendez led the minors in homers with 41, drove in 103 runs, and slashed .288/.386/.625. His 10-game .412/.474/.647 2022 spring training line seemed to reinforce his readiness.

But Kansas City, apparently believing he needed a bit more seasoning, sent Melendez back to Omaha to begin the season, and his performance over his first 21 games there suggested the Royals were right: he hit .167 with two home runs.

It was then that fate, not good performance, intervened to give Melendez his first shot at the majors. A May 1 injury forced KC backup catcher Cam Gallagher to the Injured List; needing a replacement, the Royals summoned Melendez.

How did his season in Kansas City go?

MJ Melendez wasn't perfect, but opened eyes in his first KC Royals campaign.

Melendez started well, slashing .259/.326/.482 with four homers in May. He slumped to .180 in June, then bounced back with a .253 average and four more home runs in July. Unfortunately, though, he hit only .207 from Sept. 1 through the end of the season.

But those numbers don't tell the whole Melendez story. Not to be forgotten are the 18 home runs he hit (good for third on the club behind Salvador Perez's 23 and fellow rookie Bobby Witt Jr.'s 20), his 21 doubles (fourth best for KC), or the 62 runs he drove in (third most for the Royals).

And despite batting only .217, Melendez still posted a 99 OPS+ and 99 wRC+, both of which were just a tick under average.

Defensively, Melendez's rookie season was a challenge. He caught in 78 games but, because the Royals needed his bat every day, he also spent time in left and right fields. Working behind the plate exposed his weaknesses there (he finished with -18 DRS) and trying to learn the corner outfield spots proved he still has work to do (he was -3 DRS in left and -2 DRS in right).

So, what grade does Melendez deserve for his rookie season? He displayed decent power, his hitting was better than his average suggests, and his questionable defense is traceable in part to the club deploying him in unfamiliar territory. Everything considered, we'll give him a B.

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MJ Melendez had a decent rookie season for Kansas City.