As defense grows more and more important every season, catchers have come to be viewed in a different light than they used to be. Ironically, a valuable catcher isn’t easily identified by statistics. A backstop’s defensive skill set, like receiving, isn’t rewarded on stat sheets – only miscues are. A solid glove makes M.J. Melendez 2017 MLB Draft-ready.
M.J. Melendez 2017 MLB Draft
The son of Florida International University’s head baseball coach, M.J. Melendez is a defensive catcher. He measures in at 6’1″ and 175 pounds. While he may be a bit undersized, he shows the ability to become an all-around backstop. Melendez hails from Westminster Christian School in Palmetto Bay, Florida. He was a part of the 18U USA team which recently won gold in the Pan-American Games.
Defense-first catchers are a rarity coming out of high school. Many a player hasn’t yet found a home when his prep days come to a close. Remember, Bryce Harper was a catcher. Joey Votto was a catcher. The fact that teams still see this 18-year-old kid as a catcher must mean something.
Generally, these types of picks are offense-first players with the ability to move to another position if feel behind the plate never materializes. With M.J. Melendez, this isn’t the situation. His defense doesn’t hold him back and his offensive potential only heightens his ceiling.
As already touched upon, glove work is Melendez’s strong suit. Many a scout has declared Melendez plenty good enough to stay behind the plate. According to MLB.com, Melendez has “outstanding catch and throw skills to go along athleticism that allows him to move well.”
Willson Contreras pop time on the caught stealing of Nunez was 1.89 with an arm strength of 84.8 MPH 🔥🔥🔥
— Daren Willman (@darenw) May 24, 2017
Martin Maldonado is a good catcher…
Pop time: 1.9 seconds
Arm strength: 86.3 MPH https://t.co/7QhE2MyEje
— Daren Willman (@darenw) April 26, 2017
So, Melendez has a plus arm. He can play some serious catch and release. It doesn’t end there.
His athleticism is uncanny for a catcher. Quick. Agile. Flexible. That will pay off as a blocker some day. He’s an average receiver now, but just wait until this becomes a full-time gig. As long as he can keep his ability to move around well as he adds size, there’s no reason he won’t win a Gold Glove or two.
M.J. Melendez’s offense is a big question mark. He is below-average in the hit and power tools, but there are qualities present that could raise those expectations. The left-hander doesn’t seem to have a set approach when he steps in the box. His swing can get long and his timing is inconsistent. This all leads to swing-and-misses.
If Melendez can find time to get into the cage outside his time with the pads on, he has the chance to change minds. It’s been noted he has exceptional bat speed that, according to Eric Longenhagen, topped 100 MPH and roughly 99% of the high-school draft class. Longenhagen noted he has an eye for the low zone, and this could eventually translate to above-average power with swing work and some protein shakes.
When M.J. Melendez sorts out his skills at the plate, he will be a left-hand hitting Salvador Perez.