Thursday, February 29, 2024
HomeBaseballThe Curious Case of MJ Melendez

The Curious Case of MJ Melendez


If we’re being trustworthy, we don’t know what the Royals are doing. Rumor has it that they’re doing issues in another way than the earlier regime. However they’ve been giving blended alerts.

We’re recent off the Winter Conferences, the place normal supervisor J.J. Picollo mentioned the staff is trying to spend round $30 million this offseason if the correct gamers are there. He additionally mentioned MJ Melendez would concentrate on the outfield.

The way in which we’re arrange proper now with Salvy and Freddy, we don’t must put that work on MJ. If one thing occurred to the place we traded a type of guys, then we might take a look at it once more, as a result of it’s not that he can’t do it, it’s simply we don’t want him to do it. And we’re not trying to commerce Salvy and Freddy.

This one is hard, however my first thought once I learn this was black and white – it’s time to commerce MJ Melendez. Now, that was a bit rash, so I formulated a query: Ought to the Royals commerce MJ Melendez? Not fairly as rash, however a bit untimely. So let’s choose this: What the heck ought to the Royals do with MJ Melendez? There are a number of components, however listed below are a couple of of word.

Is Salvador Perez in Kansas Metropolis for the lengthy haul?

Salvador Perez is without doubt one of the most loyal athletes within the sport and has by no means expressed a need to go away Kansas Metropolis. Nevertheless, almost 10 years faraway from the World Sequence and caught on a hapless staff that has misplaced 100 video games in three of its final six seasons, he isn’t unwilling to go away both. Jon Heyman reported this final season.

One potential touchdown spot that made sense was Miami. Salvy lives in Florida, and insider Jayson Stark reported that he was “notably open” to a commerce to Miami. Nevertheless, Stark’s sources shortly put an finish to that.

The commerce by no means occurred, and right here we’re. Nevertheless, that is the primary time in Salvy’s profession that he’s entered the offseason with commerce rumors swirling. The Royals have shut these down shortly, as seen in Picollo’s newest feedback.

As Picollo mentioned, if Salvy is in Kansas Metropolis (and even Freddy Fermin, to be frank), Melendez will likely be within the outfield. Perez may theoretically get extra time at DH, as he has up to now, however the emergence of Fermin has additional cemented Melendez’s destiny out from behind house plate. So, it might seem that Melendez’s days as a catcher in Kansas Metropolis are probably over.

Can Melendez be a viable participant anyplace aside from catcher?

I ought to word right here that Melendez has by no means been an excellent defender behind the plate as a Main Leaguer. He was within the first or second percentile in Blocks Above Common and framing metrics in 2022. Nevertheless as a prospect, he was a viable defender with upside behind the plate. He had a median pop time in 2022, together with an above-average caught-stealing charge.

Salvy might not be nice proof for this, however framing and blocking are fixable issues comparatively talking – at the least in comparison with arm power. That is all to say that as dangerous as Melendez was behind the plate as a rookie, he was as dangerous, if not worse as an outfielder. He logged -12 Outs Above Common, was one of many worst outfielders within the league at getting good jumps, and ranked useless final amongst certified outfielders in error runs above common.

The calculus right here is fairly easy. In 2023, outfielders throughout the league hit at a 103 wRC+ clip. Catchers, alternatively, hit at a 90 wRC+ clip. MJ completed the 12 months with a 92 wRC+. Now, to be honest to MJ, he was additionally the unluckiest hitter alive to begin the season and put collectively a 124 wRC+ within the second half.

However as the idea goes, MJ has to hit extra to be of any worth within the outfield.

Let’s be extra particular: Can MJ Melendez be a viable outfielder?

That is the query that prompted my unique thought. I like Melendez quite a bit as a fan. He’s a enjoyable and thrilling participant. However is he going to hit sufficient to stay within the outfield?

In 2023, MJ ranked within the ninetieth percentile in arm power and was prime 20 in arm worth. He has barely above-average dash pace, so there isn’t any cause to assume that MJ couldn’t turn into a viable outfielder. In any case, Alex Gordon grew to become an all-world outfielder after developing as a 3rd baseman. As I famous earlier, you possibly can train angles and footwork in a method that you could’t train bodily instruments like arm power. In that sense, MJ has a head begin.

I feel MJ’s errors are an excellent instance of this. All of us bear in mind Alex letting that fly ball sail over his head in proper subject at Yankee Stadium throughout his first cup of espresso within the outfield. Errors are correctable. Nevertheless, his teammate Edward Olivares is a superb instance of what MJ is dealing with.

Olivares completed third on the Royals with a 105 wRC+, but completed the season as a 0.4 fWAR participant because of cataclysmic protection in proper subject. And just like Melendez, Olivares has a ninetieth percentile arm. Melendez doesn’t need to be distinctive on the plate or within the outfield to be a viable starter. But when he isn’t going to be nicely above common at one, he can’t be one of many worst within the league on the different.

What’s the breaking level?

This can be a little bit of a make-or-break season for MJ. He is aware of he’s an outfielder in 2024 and has had a complete offseason to treatment a few of the issues he had in 2023. To be honest to him, he was studying on the fly on the big-league stage, which isn’t straightforward.

My preliminary intuition to commerce him was overstepping. This is similar participant who hit 41 homers between AA and AAA simply three years in the past and whose make-up interprets nicely to the trendy recreation. Even along with his stroll charge dropping considerably in 2023, his 10.3% clip was the seventh greatest season of the Dayton Moore/Picollo period. Solely two Royals with at the least 1000 plate appearances have the next charge within the post-strike period than Melendez’s 11.3%.

Buying and selling him can be promoting too low on a man that doesn’t have a lot worth for the time being, for a staff that doesn’t have something higher to do than give him 600 plate appearances. However this 12 months will likely be our first take a look at whether or not Melendez is usually a full-time outfielder. He posted a 1.0 fWAR within the 2nd half, which is a ~2.5 fWAR tempo over 162 video games. That required a 124 wRC+ because of his gloomy -5.8 defensive runs above common.

The most important distinction between that breakout second half and the primary half of the season, and even his rookie season? The facility. MJ attracts his walks, however the energy is available in spurts. He hit 18 homers his rookie season, however slugged below .400. Within the second half of the season, he slugged at a close to .500 clip.

I began this writing course of believing the Royals ought to commerce Melendez as a result of he received’t ever be a viable outfielder. I’ll finish it with the idea that he will be if that energy can come round.

Ballot

Do you assume MJ Melendez is usually a long-term starter within the outfield?



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