Minor League Minutes: 8/3/2021

The newest episode of the RFR Podcast is out. MJ Melendez joins the show to talk about his offensive renaissance at Northwest Arkansas.

For anyone who wasn’t following along with us in 2017, I interviewed MJ’s dad, Mervyl, after the Royals drafted MJ in the 2nd round back in 2017. It was pretty clear from the jump how special MJ was going to be.

“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.”

Two out of three ain’t bad?

Baseball people, Dayton Moore included, talk about being strong up the middle a lot. Having solid defenders at SS, 2B, CF, and behind home plate. We’re going to simplify SS and 2B and just refer to it as one “position,” the middle infield. So if you count catchers, middle infielders, and center fielders, the Royals have a ton of good defensive options at two of the three “up the middle” positions. Here’s a quick list of guys that I think could defend each position at an above average clip in the big leagues:

Catchers
– Luca Tresh
– Kale Emshoff
– Omar Hernandez
– MJ Melendez
– Sebastian Rivero
– Plus Salvy + Gallagher

Middle Infield
– Maikel Garcia
– Nick Loftin
– Jeison Guzman
– Michael Massey
– Clay Dungan
– Bobby Witt Jr.
– Lucius Fox
– Peyton Wilson
– Wilmin Candelario
– Plus Mondesi + Lopez + Merrifield

Center Fielders:
– Dairon Blanco
– John Rave
– Diego Hernandez
– Erick Pena

Those first two are really good lists. There are a lot of solid gloves with potentially serviceable bats that make fantastic prospects to have in your system. That third list is not good. It’s not even that the Royals don’t have GOOD prospects in center field long-term, it’s that they almost don’t have any. Erick Pena is obviously the best of the bunch and he’s 18 playing in the Arizona League at the moment. Blanco is 28 and in AA. Rave is striking out in 30% of his PA at High-A. Diego Hernandez has a .684 OPS as a 20-year old in Low-A (though he can really go get it in CF, I like that kid defensively).

We’ve mentioned this a few times already here at the site, so I don’t want to totally beat a dead horse, but man, CF is a gaping hole in this organization at the moment. On the latest edition of the Royals Review Radio podcast that came out last night, I mentioned Starling Marte as a potential big free agent signing KC could make this offseason to help them in CF for the next few years. Short of moving Mondesi or, someone else to CF next season, I have no idea what the long-term plans are here. Going to be interesting to watch for KC this offseason.

Marcus wrote about this a little bit as well earlier this year.

*I do not consider Bobby Witt Jr. or Brady McConnell center field prospects as neither has played a significant amount of center field before. Also Blake Perkins is a solid defensive outfielder who is still waiting to be assigned this year, but I don’t think he’ll ever hit enough to play in the bigs.

One more wave of promotions?

I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s one more group of players promoted before the end of the season. MiLB seasons will run through mid-September, meaning there could still another wave of moves to get guys one month at a new level before the end of the 2021 season. Michael Massey, MJ Melendez, Nick Loftin, Jon Heasley, Jackson Kowar, and Dylan Coleman are all guys I could see making a jump depending on what the Royals want to do at each level. An influx of 2021 draftees could also potentially affect the movement of some of these guys in the system.

3 thoughts on “Minor League Minutes: 8/3/2021

  1. If you can play short you can play center, it’s just a matter of experience. I know Guzman was getting some time out there before the Olympics. Maybe that’s the plan. As far as next year at the ML level, I think Merrifield ends up out there if Mondy can bounce back. Witt jr at third and Dozier in right. Could work

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    • Interesting comments from Moore yesterday re Mondi. In a nutshell, he said Mondi can’t be trusted to be healthy enough. They are developing contingency plans, although its not exactly clear what that means.

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  2. Dayton Moore gets a lot of heat, somewhat deservedly IMO for not being “transactional” enough. I think we see it here at the deadline. We really needed to have moved Michael A Taylor and Cam Gallagher or Meibrys Veloria. Honestly I’ve got no problems with either of the two of them and think they’d make fine backup catchers. But with Melendez killing it at AA and Rivero ahead if him, numerous guys behind him in the system, the catcher surplus needed to be addressed and either Isbel or Blanco should be patrolling CF. As mentioned, Blanco is 28. Is put up or shut up time for him.

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