Prior to the season, Baseball America ranked Melendez as the 42nd best prospect in all of baseball. In a breakout 2021 season, Melendez led all of the minors with 41 home runs. The problem, of course, is that Melendez is blocked by Salvador Perez, the longtime Royals backstop who crushed a career-best 48 Major League home runs in that same season. Perez is signed through 2025, with a club option for 2026.
Melendez was off to a slow start in 2022, with a .160/.284/.280 line in 88 Triple-A plate appearances. He had no such issues at that level last year, hitting .293/.413/.620 in 45 games. Now, Melendez will get a shot to serve as Perez’s apprentice at the game’s highest level, on the merits of that ’21 season. Defensively, Melendez draws praise for his plus-plus arm, while Baseball America suggests he “still has work to do with his receiving and blocking behind the plate.”
Perez, who ranked fourth in MLB last year with 1002 2/3 innings caught at age 31, could cede the occasional start to Melendez while the 23-year-old rookie is around. There’s also the DH spot, which could feature both Melendez and Perez as part of a rotation. To date, Perez has taken 27% of the club’s DH plate appearances, with only Hunter Dozier having received more. This year at Triple-A, Melendez has spent a few games at DH and in right field when he hasn’t been catching. Last year he picked up nine games at third base, and got a look there in spring training this year as well.
Melendez will mark the 13th Baseball America top 100 prospect to make his Major League debut this year, following Julio Rodriguez, Bobby Witt Jr., Spencer Torkelson, C.J. Abrams, Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, Seiya Suzuki, Matt Brash, Bryson Stott, Jeremy Peña, Heliot Ramos, and MacKenzie Gore.