Salvador Perez is arguably the most beloved player in the history of the Kansas City Royals franchise. His number 13 is almost a lock to be retired at the end of his career, and he has a legitimate shot at the MLB Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY.
But Salvador Perez cannot play forever. His current contract has Perez signed with the Royals through 2021, at which time he will be 31. Once his contract ends, the Royals will have a very interesting decision to make. Salvador Perez will either A, continue to be the Royals catcher; B, Play a different position but remain in Kansas City; or, C, move on to another team (this is not something I’m mentally prepared for).
The Kansas City Royals have already prepared themselves for the possibility of option C. While it is far too early to worry about the departure of Salvador Perez, Dayton Moore made a move on June 13 to guarantee that the Royals will be rock solid at the catching position for years to come.
The Kansas City Royals received mixed reviews for their selections in the 2017 MLB Amateur Draft. Bleacher Report gave the Royals a B- for their first three picks, for example. There is nothing mixed about the reviews that they received from me. In my opinion, the Royals selected a handful of players early on that have the potential to make a serious impact in the Major Leagues, including second round pick MJ Melendez.
MJ Melendez is an 18-year old catching prospect from Cutler Bay, Florida. His father, Mervyl Melendez, is an eight time MEAC Coach of the Year, and is currently the head coach at Florida International University.
MJ was committed to Florida International to play college baseball for his father before being drafted by Kansas City in the second round of the MLB Draft earlier this month. It’s clear why both Dayton Moore and MJ’s father wanted MJ on their respective teams, MJ was highly regarded as the top high school catching prospect in the country. The Royals thought so highly of MJ, in fact, that they paid $804,300 over slot value to sign him.
It’s really no mystery why either. MJ comes from a great background and has all of the tools you want in a kid. In 2015, MJ recorded a 1.82 pop time at a work out for Perfect Game. (For reference, check out this page on MLB.com that explains what “pop time” is. In a “Stat Cast” video on the page, Salvador Perez records a pop time of 2.06.) MJ is also unusually athletic for the catcher position, which projects really well for his future with the Royals.
I was able to talk to MJ’s dad, Mervyl, for a bit, and he had this to say about his son:
“MJ’s biggest strength on the field is his athleticism and his baseball sense. He’s been able to use his athleticism behind the plate to his advantage. He also plays with a lot of passion and energy. In my opinion, MJ has skills that could make him a very good player in the big leagues. He has called his own game since he was 13. He understands hitters strengths and weaknesses as well as the pitchers. His athleticism allows him to make plays that are not typical of many catchers, and he understands the game.”
From a man who has eight Coach of the Year Awards in an NCAA DI conference, that’s some well-deserved high praise.
Signing a professional contract right out of high school doesn’t come without it’s risks, however. Once MJ signed his contract with the Royals, he eliminated the possibility that he would ever be able to play baseball for his dad at FIU. I asked Mervyl why he and MJ felt confident enough with the Royals to forego a college career and begin his professional career with Kansas City.
“The Royals organization has the structure that simulates my program [at FIU] the most. It is built around players that exemplify the word professional. Their player development department is like no other and the environment is the best in the business. Dayton [Moore] and Lonnie [Goldberg] were essentially the key into the decision to forego college and play professional baseball. They emphasize the structure of the Royals organization and that made it an easier decision for MJ and our family.”
Mervyl Melendez is obviously confident in not only his son, but also the Royals organization to develop MJ not only as a baseball player but even more as a young man.
The Kansas City Royals farm system is full of talented catchers.
In fact, MLB.com has four catchers in the Royals Top 30 Prospects list. Chase Vallot, Cam Gallagher, Meibrys Viloria, and Sebastian Rivero, all have promising futures in the Royals farm system. Chase Vallot is considered by some sites to have the most power of any Royals prospect. Yet Dayton Moore and his brain trust thought so highly of MJ Melendez that they over-slotted him and grabbed him with their second pick of this year’s draft.
I asked Mervyl Melendez what it mean to him that an organization with such talented depth at the catcher position, would over-slot and pick his son so early in the draft.
“We are extremely blessed that they thought of MJ as a real value to their organization. Knowing that they think he could be part of their future is really exciting.”
Really exciting indeed.
The Royals selection of MJ Melendez has gotten me really excited. Everything I read about him before the draft raved about his defensive prowess, athleticism, and baseball IQ. He’s also got a pretty fair bat. As a junior in high school, Melendez hit .413 with seven home runs, and as a senior he hit .391 with eight home runs. To top it all off, he has begun his professional career by going 5-11 with 7 RBI and a HR in his first few of games in the Arizona Summer League.
As I mentioned before, the Royals organization is full of really talented catchers. To over-slot a guy buy almost a million dollars in the second round speaks to the confidence that Dayton Moore and the Royals have in MJ to succeed in Royal Blue.
From the conversation I had with MJ’s dad, Mervyl, and the videos of interviews I’ve seen with MJ on various sites, I now feel that same confidence. MJ epitomizes what the Royals are all about. Class, humility, and hard work. MJ has them all.
The Kansas City Royals may have found their answer to life after Salvador Perez, and his name is MJ Melendez.