Daily Prospect Notes: 8/19/21

These are notes on prospects from Tess Taruskin. Read previous installments of the Daily Prospect Notes here.

MJ Melendez, C, Kansas City Royals
Level & Affiliate: Triple-A Omaha Age: 22 Org Rank: 13 FV: 40+
2-for-4, HR, K, BB

Melendez’s four-bagger in Wednesday’s game was his 31st on the season, which ties him with Griffin Conine atop the minor league home run leaderboard.

As an added narrative wrinkle to their ongoing homer chase, Conine’s father (former big-leaguer Jeff Conine), is now an assistant coach at Florida International University under Melendez’s father, Head Coach Mervy Melendez. While the playful, multi-generational rivalry between the father-son duos makes for a compelling storyline, there’s plenty more to be gathered from Melendez’s performance this year, much of which adds significant shine to his prospect apple.

Here’s a snippet from Eric Longenhagen’s notes on Melendez from early in the season:

Melendez is striking out less than ever (just an 18% clip so far this year, though small sample caveats apply to that) and has walked more than he’s K’d to this point. Strikeouts are always going to suppress Melendez’s offensive output (that’s my opinion based on his statistical track record and visual evaluation) but the question is whether he can control them enough to be an everyday catcher; his start to this year is an indication that he might be.

Melendez has stretched those promising early numbers into sustained success. While his K-rate did eventually surpass his walk-rate, he still drew free passes in 12.4% of his plate appearances at Double-A NW Arkansas. And that impressive 18% strikeout percentage only crept up slightly (to 21.9%) as the sample increased, a rate that also is still several ticks lower than his K-rate in any of his previous seasons. By the time he earned his mid-August promotion, he was slashing .285/.372/.628 with a 157 wRC+. So far he is 8-for-28 with three home runs in his first seven games at Triple-A, which may provide a well-timed boost to the org’s confidence in Melendez, as he is Rule 5 eligible this coming offseason.

Mark Vientos, 3B, New York Mets
Level & Affiliate: Double-A Binghamton Age: 21 Org Rank: 5 FV: 45
Line: 3-for-5, HR, K

Despite being the second-youngest player in Double-A Northeast, Vientos boasts the highest OPS and the second highest wRC+ in the league. He was swinging a hot bat and riding an eight game hitting streak into the month of August, but was left out of the lineup starting on August 4 due to “health and safety protocols” and missed two weeks. In his first game back with the Rumble Ponies on Tuesday, Vientos went hitless with two strikeouts, but last night’s game was a return to form. His first inning home run, which came off his bat with a reported exit velo of 100 mph, was his 21st of the season, which puts him sixth in all of Double-A. Even more impressive is that he’s reached that mark in only 63 games – the next-lowest game total among the league’s top-10 home run hitters is 75.

Luis Mieses, OF, Chicago White Sox
Level & Affiliate: High-A Winston-Salem Age: 21 Org Rank: 30 FV: 35+
Line: 2-for-5, 2 HR, 3 K

It would be easy to draw conclusions from a huge-framed 21-year-old having a two-home run, three-strikeout night, but in Mieses’ case, those conclusions wouldn’t be quite accurate. While the dingers may seem like a promising indication of his improved ability to tap into his raw power during games, Wednesday was his first multi-home run game of the season and is far from representative of his 2021 campaign. As for the strikeouts, the last time he fanned three times in a game was in early July, so that’s hardly been a concerning pattern for him either. Mieses did struggle a bit at the beginning of the season, slashing just .155/.189/.366 in the 19 games he played at Winston-Salem before being sent down to Low-A for some fine-tuning. He ended up spending exactly two months at Kannapolis, steadily improving over that span. In June, his slashline was .267/.304/.444, which he bumped up to .335/.382/.478 in July, all while maintaining a strikeout rate below 15%. That performance earned him a promotion on August 1, and his second stint at Winston-Salem has been markedly better. In his 13 games since returning to High-A, his line has been a much more palatable .271/.314/.458, but he’ll have to bring that walk rate up before we can get too excited about any long-term fixes to his approach.

JJ Bleday, OF, Miami Marlins
Level & Affiliate: Double-A Pensacola Age: 23 Org Rank: 5 FV: 50
Line: 3-for-5, 2 2B, 2 K, BB

Wednesday night’s game between the Biloxi Shuckers and the Pensacola Blue Wahoos was a sloppy extra-innings affair, that finally ended when Bleday banged a walk-off double off the right field wall in the bottom of the 13th. By most metrics, the pace of Bleday’s development has been less than inspiring in 2021. His sub-100 wRC+ is far from the production most expected out of the fourth pick in the 2019 draft. But while one week isn’t nearly enough to re-instill full confidence in the up-and-coming slugger, his performance over the week leading up to Wednesday night’s game was certainly enough to warrant attention. In those preceding seven days, Bleday went 7-for-24, reaching extra bases on five of those hits and showing flashes of the skillset that has rightly earned him praise in the past.

Other Notes
Adley Rutschman and Spencer Torkelson both notched Triple-A firsts on Wednesday, with Rutschman going yard for the first time at the higher level while Torkelson notched his first hit with the Toledo Mud Hens (and his second, for that matter). Lefty Carson Ragsdale notched 10 strikeouts for Low-A San Jose, marking the third time this season he’s reached double-digits in the K-column. Outfielder Micker Adolfo went 3-for-3 including a 447-foot bomb that came off his bat at 111 mph, as his Triple-A Charlotte Knights swept their double-header against the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, winning both bouts in walk-off fashion.

Tess is a contributor at FanGraphs. When she's not watching college or professional baseball, she works as a sports video editor, creating highlight reels for high school athletes. She can be found on Twitter at @tesstass.

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1 year ago

Tess – curious as to what you saw in the lower half of Vientos’s swing. In 2019 – a long time ago – I was concerned with how stiff he was in the hips and below the waist. My concern was that he’d be able to punish minor league fastballs but needed to be able to rotate his core better to make contact at the upper levels. What are you seeing in his swing now? Thanks.

1 year ago
Reply to  Tess Taruskin

That’s awesome feedback. Thanks very much.