Our method for determining our top 100 Royals prospects came from an aggregate of three separate top 100 lists. These lists were compiled by three members of our writing staff: Patrick Brennan, Alex Duvall, and Drew Osborne.
5. MJ Melendez, C
Levels Played, 2017: Rookie
Acquired: 2nd Round of the 2017 MLB Draft
2017 Stats: .262/.374/.417/.790, 4 HR, 30 RBI, 8 2B, 3 3B, 4 SB, 30.3% K%, 13.1% BB%, .155 ISO, 121 wRC+, .373 wOBA, 26.4% CS%, 8.30 Range Factor
Ahhhhh. MJ Melendez. My favorite pick of the 2017 draft finally makes his debut on our prospect rankings. Unless you live under a rock (or are just new to the site which is perfectly understandable also) you are now well aware of what I think of MJ Melendez. The catching position in my opinion is both the most important and underrated position on the field. I mentioned it before in Rivero’s prospect ranking, but I love it when teams invest in young catchers. The Royals gave Melendez a significant over-slot in the 2017 draft, which ought to be telling of what they think of his future as a potential star catcher.
The scouting report on Melendez is pretty straightforward: great athlete, defensive wizard behind the plate, decent bat with developing power from the left side. If you’ve never seen video of Melendez catching, you need to, ASAP.
The kid is unbelievable behind the dish. Bias aside, Melendez is one of the better defensive prospects I’ve ever seen coming out of high school. Young catchers don’t have to be all-world hitters in order to be good prospects. MJ Melendez would be a top 20 prospect in the Royals organization based on his defense alone (see Sebastian Rivero for reference).
The best part about Melendez as an elite defensive catcher is that he has a legitimate chance of becoming an above average major league hitter as well. Here’s a look at 4 of the Royals top 5 prospects (in no particular order) and how they fared in the AZL (Hunter Dozier never played in the AZL, as he was drafted out of college):
- .269/.396/.484/.880, 6 HR, 8 SB, 9 2B, 6 3B, 182 AB
- .250/.348/.477/.825, 8 HR, 2 SB, 11 2B, 2 3B, 172 AB
- .262/.374/.417/.790, 4 HR, 4 SB, 8 2B, 3 3B, 168 AB
- .247/.330/.414/.745, 4 HR, 10 SB, 15 2B, 3 3B, 198 AB
As you can see, among the top prospects in this organization, MJ Melendez’ bat fits right in with hitters who are ranked this high strictly for their offensive prowess. Khalil Lee and Seuly Matias both project as corner outfielders and Nick Pratto is a first baseman. Those three guys are top prospects because they can hit, and MJ Melendez, thought of as a defense first catcher, performed just as well or better than some of these guys.
Melendez’ stat line appears third on that list. Khalil Lee is the first one, followed by Seuly Matias (who arguably has the most power of any prospect in the organization), with Nick Pratto finishing out the list. By most measures, Melendez had a better year offensively than Pratto in 2017, and his rookie campaign doesn’t fare much differently than Matias and Lee.
MJ Melendez is truly a once-in-a-lifetime prospect. Rarely do you come across a guy who can play elite defense behind the plate AND hit like the rest of your organization’s top prospects. For reference, former Silver Slugger Award winner Salvador Perez slugged .279 and failed to hit a HR during his time in the AZL. MJ Melendez could very well be the Royals top prospect by this time next year, and ought to have all Royals fans excited for the future at backstop in Kansas City.
Check out this piece I wrote after the draft this past summer in which I interviewed MJ’s father, Mervyl, who coaches at Florida International University.