MJ Melendez (KC): 2-5, HR, 2 R, 4 RBI.
MJ: The King of Pop
The Kansas City Royals‘ rebuild has not gone as planned. It was a rebuild meant to be built around pitching, but their top-tier pitching draft picks have not lived up to anything near the level the team needed to rebuild successfully. The hitting side of the rebuild has, however, gone more as envisioned. Bobby Witt Jr. is poised to break out sometime in the near future, while Vinnie Pasquantino, Nick Pratto, and MJ Melendez fill up the meat of the order and surround Salvador Perez.
Melendez has had a slow start to the season, but on Monday, he flashed his power that was so widely talked about as he rose through Kansas City’s system. He went 2 for 5 on Monday with a home run in the fourth inning off of Dylan Cease, four RBI, and two runs. So far in 2023, Melendez is in the 97th percentile of average exit velocity and 88th percentile of barrel percentage. Those are some slight steps forward from last year. However, a 33.4 strikeout rate and a 9.3 walk rate are both steps back from 2022. Developing and adjusting take time, especially after one reaches MLB and is working to stay there. The slider seems to be the pitch bugging Melendez the most this season; he has whiffed on about 50% of sliders thrown to him and is yet to record a hit on one in 2023.
Let’s see how the other hitters did Monday:
Nick Pratto (KC): 2-3, 2B, R, 3 RBI, BB.
In the fourth inning against the White Sox, Pratto laced a single off of Cease that left the first baseman’s bat traveling 106.4 mph. He then smacked a double in the sixth inning off of Jimmy Lambert with an exit velocity of 101.1 mph. Since receiving a late-April call-up, Pratto has been striking out north of 30% of the time. However, when he hits the ball, he shows exactly why he was once a highly touted prospect.
Willy Adames (MIL): 1-4, HR, R, 3 RBI.
Willy Adames has struggled the last couple of weeks but now, after going deep on back-t0-back days, the shortstop seems to have made the necessary adjustments. The Brewers put up eight runs against Tony Gonsolin and the Dodgers’ bullpen on Monday, and Adames knocked in three with one swing. His home run off Wander Suero had an exit velocity of 102.7 mph and traveled 376 feet into the right field stands.
Rodolfo Castro (PIT): 1-2, HR, R, 2 RBI, BB.
Monday’s game between the Pirates and the Rockies was a pitchers’ duel, but Rodolfo Castro was the difference maker in Pittsburgh’s 2-0 win. In the seventh inning, Castro took a Kyle Freeland fastball to dead center field for two runs. The ball left his bat at 102.2 mph and traveled 406 feet.
Willson Contreras (STL): 2-4, 2B, R, 2 RBI.
In his return to Wrigley, Willson Contreras failed to disappoint. Following his second-inning standing ovation, Contreras smacked a single off Marcus Stroman. He followed that up with the hardest hit ball of the game in the fourth inning in the form of a groundout that left his bat at 117.5 mph. His sixth-inning double to deep center field off Stroman carried 403 feet and would have left the yard in two ballparks.
Luke Raley (TB): 2-4, HR, 2 R, RBI.
Luke Raley’s eight home runs and 17 RBI on the season are yet another two reasons why the Rays’ offense is doing what it is doing. His ninth-inning home run off of Keegan Akin traveled 399 feet into the right field seats and left Raley’s bat at 104.2 mph. He also scorched a ground out off of Kyle Gibson earlier in the game. Raley has continuously hit the ball hard throughout the first month of the season, and while his expected numbers do not look too great, Raley carries a .929 OPS into Tuesday.
Christian Walker (ARI): 2-4, 2B, HR, R, 2 RBI.
Christian Walker is not hitting the ball hard as often this year as he was last year, but he is nevertheless on track to outpace his double and home run tallies from 2022. His eighth home run of the season on Monday night came in the sixth inning off Braxton Garrett and traveled a whopping 459 feet into the left-field stands.
Andy Ibáñez (DET): 2-3, HR, 3 R, RBI, BB.
The Tigers have now won 7 of their last 10 games, largely thanks to their offense finding its stride. Andy Ibáñez has been no small part of that, having now hit four extra-base hits in his last five games. The infielder now holds a .913 OPS after 10 games this season.
DJ LeMahieu (NYY): 1-4, HR, R, 2 RBI.
With their 9th hitter from last year hitting in the sixth hole, the Yankees need all the offense they can get. A two-run homer from the cleanup hitting DJ LeMahieu handed New York a well-needed win on Monday night and was a step in the right direction for the infielder. The righty has so far been hitting the ball harder and barreling balls more often this season than he did last year.
Shohei Ohtani (LAA): 2-4, 2 2B, 2 RBI.
One might say that Shohei Ohtani has had a slow start at the plate this year because he is not leading the American League in home runs. Well, if a slow start means slashing .301/.369/.526, I cannot wait for him to get hot. Ohtani’s first double came in the third inning off of Houston’s Hunter Brown and his second double, along with an Anthony Rendon hit by pitch, chased Brown from the game in the fifth inning.
(Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)
Did Contreras receive the standing O in honor of his service to the Cubs, or in honor of the fact that he’s allegedly to blame for the demise of the Cubs’ rival???