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Melendez Mashes Two Homers

MJ Melendez

MJ Melendez

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

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Last year’s minor league home run leader had his first multi-homer game in the majors on Monday.

Before Yordan Álvarez upstaged him with a walk-off home run because, well, that’s what he does, MJ Melendez popped not one, but two solo home runs for the Royals in the Astros’ 8-7 victory.

They didn’t have the distance of Álvarez’s 444-foot, walk-off blast, but Melendez’s first home run was scorched off the bat at 107 mph and his second one was clubbed even harder at 108.6 mph. The rookie’s first career multi-homer game pushed his season total for the Royals to eight in 52 games.

It hasn’t been all smooth sailing for Melendez in his first go-round in the majors. In fact, he entered Monday’s contest sporting just a .118/.258/.157 batting line over his last 15 games. That slump started a week prior to us finding out that Salvador Perez was undergoing surgery to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb. Is it fair to think the adding catching workload might be affecting his offense? Perhaps.

There have certainly been some encouraging signs from Melendez, though. His exit velocity in the 60th percentile heading into Monday’s game has been solid and is due to rise after his big showing against the Astros. His max exit velocity in the 74th percentile has been well above average.

There’s also Melendez’s walk rate, which sits at a super impressive 11.8 percent. His 23 percent strikeout rate has been just fine.

One area that Melendez has struggled in which has been surprising is against right-handed pitching. Coming into Monday’s game, the left-handed hitter had just a .592 OPS versus righties as opposed to a .933 OPS against lefties. During his breakout 2021 season in the minors, Melendez had a 1.012 OPS and hit 30 of his 41 long balls off right-handers (he also punished lefties with a 1.009 OPS. Both of the 23-year-old’s bombs Monday were off of righties.

There will be bumps in the road as we’ve already seen, especially if Melendez starts to wear down while shouldering a large workload at catcher. He’s been a perfectly solid fantasy catcher even with the peaks and valleys, and hopefully his performance Monday was a sign of things to come in his exploits versus right-handers.

Starting Pitchers with an EDGE

Eric Lauer vs. CHC – 6 IP, 1 ER, 2 H, 2 BB, 9 K

Lauer was in need of a positive performance after a rocky stretch and he got it on Monday against the Cubs. Not only did he limit the damage to just one run while recording his most strikeouts in a start since April, but Lauer also induced 23 swinging strikes, including a whopping 21 on 38 swings at his fastball. It was only the left-hander’s second quality start in his last eight tries.

Justin Steele vs. MIL – 6 2/3 IP, 1 ER, 2 H, 4 BB, 9 K

Lauer and Steele both took no-decisions Monday in spite of stellar efforts from both southpaws. Steele is walking too many guys and it has helped lead to quite a bit of inconsistency, but he’s also put up a handful of terrific outings like this this season. It was his third start this season with at least nine strikeouts and he’s now right at a strikeout per inning for the year. Steele’s 14 swinging strikes Monday were a season high.

Chris Flexen vs. SD – 6 2/3 IP, 0 ER, 4 H, 3 BB, 8 K

Flexen put together arguably his best start of the season on Monday night in San Diego. He came within one out of tying his season high in innings pitched, and it’s the first time this year that he didn’t give up any runs in a start. The eight strikeouts were also a season high. Flexen now carries an even 4.00 ERA on the season and has posted two straight quality starts.

Hitters with an EDGE

Brandon Nimmo vs. CIN – 2-for-4, HR, 3 RBI, BB

Nimmo got the scoring started Monday in Cincinnati, slugging a three-run home run off of Hunter Greene in the second inning. That was after he had led off the game with a single, and Nimmo also later added a walk. Nimmo had a rough first couple weeks of June, but over his last 12 games he’s now batting .320. The home run was his third over his last 58 contests after he popped the same number in his first 14 tilts.

Daulton Varsho vs. SF – 3-for-4, 3 RBI, SB

Varsho had a dreadful June which got him demoted from the leadoff spot. He was in the No. 8 spot Monday against lefty Carlos Rodón, which is the lowest he’s batted since early May. Varsho came through with three hits, including an RBI single in the sixth inning and a two-RBI single in the eighth. The stolen base was just his fifth of the season and only his second over his last 44 games, which is a big disappointment for a guy who was seen as the rare catcher who can pile up steals.

Marcus Semien vs. TEX – 3-for-4, HR, 2 R, SB

Semien slugged his 10th home run of the season on Monday in Baltimore and it was a big one at the time, as it put the Rangers ahead for a brief amount of time in the top of the ninth inning. The Orioles would tie it back up in the bottom of the frame and win it in the 10th. Semien’s stolen base was his 14th of the season, which is just one off his career high. His counting stats on the year now look pretty good even if his rate stats don’t.

Priority Pickup

Nick Lodolo, SP, Reds – Available in 83 percent of Yahoo fantasy leagues

Lodolo cracked the Reds’ Opening Day rotation but lasted just three starts before he went down with a back injury. It wound up costing him more than 10 weeks of action, but he will finally rejoin the rotation on Tuesday in a start against the Mets. The rookie left-hander had an uninspiring 5.52 ERA in his first three outings, but that also came along with a promising 19/5 K/BB ratio across 14 2/3 innings of work. Missing bats is nothing new for the former first-round pick, as Lodolo has fanned 126 versus just 14 walks over 81 2/3 innings at the minor league level. It might be wise to keep him on the bench for his first start back, but Lodolo is worth scooping back up in fantasy leagues where he was dropped.

Closing Time

The Tigers had two different relievers pick up a save during Monday’s doubleheader sweep of the Guardians. One went to normal closer Gregory Soto, who pitched around a couple walks to nail down the afternoon victory. The other went to former “closer of the future” Joe Jimenez, who picked up his first save since last August. Soto job is secure here, and Jimenez is probably no better than fourth in line behind Soto, Michael Fulmer and Alex Lange.

Seth Lugo registered his third save of the season on Monday, giving up a hit but completing a scoreless inning to close out the Mets’ 7-4 win over the Reds. Edwin Díaz was apparently unavailable after pitching Sunday and this past Friday. Lugo got off to a slow start this season but holds a 2.20 ERA over his last 14 appearances.

Dylan Floro allowed the automatic runner to score but held on to notch a save Monday versus the Nationals in extra innings. Tanner Scott was unavailable after pitching each of the previous three days. It’s the second save in as many days for Floro, who picked one up Sunday in extra innings after Scott blew his chance in the ninth.

Will Smith loaded the bases on a hit and a pair of walks but hung on for a save on Monday against the Cardinals in the Braves’ 7-4 victory. After A.J. Minter recorded the first save for the Braves after Kenley Jansen (heart) went on the injured list, Smith has notched the last three. Minter, though, could have been unavailable Monday after pitching each of the previous two days. Jansen is due back when first eligible on July 12.

Yency Almonte recorded one out to notch a save Monday against the Rockies. That was after he gave up a two-run single, although those runs were charged to Reyes Moronta. Almonte has pitched well for the Dodgers this season and could continue to be in the mix for saves should Craig Kimbrel’s back injury linger, but for now Kimbrel is expected back soon.

John Schreiber retired all five batters he faced to collect his third save of the season on Monday as the Red Sox took down the Rays. Schreiber has been the team’s best reliever this season and hasn’t allowed a run since May. Tanner Houck still looks like the favorite for saves in Boston, but Schreiber looks like a fine choice if manager Alex Cora makes a change.

Tuesday’s Matchup of the Day

Max Scherzer (NYM) vs. Nick Lodolo (CIN)

It’s a matchup of two pitchers rejoining their respective rotations following lengthy stints on the injured list. Scherzer has been sidelined since mid-May with a high-grade oblique strain but is ready to roll following two rehab starts which saw him allow four earned runs with a 14/2 K/BB ratio over eight innings. The future Hall of Famer was his usual stellar self before getting hurt, holding a 2.54 ERA and 59/11 K/BB ratio across 49 2/3 frames. While Scherzer will understandably draw the headlines here, Lodolo is a pitcher of note coming off a long layoff, as well. The rookie southpaw posted a 5.52 ERA but a 19/5 K/BB ratio over 14 2/3 innings covering his first three starts before going down with a back ailment.

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American League Quick Hits: The Red Sox will call up Brayan Bello to make his major league debut on Wednesday versus the Rays. … Ty France (elbow) is expected back later this weekend when the Mariners play the Blue Jays. … Cole Irvin went eight innings on Monday against the Blue Jays, yielding just one run while striking out four. … Kevin Gausman (ankle) still has trouble pushing off the rubber and could miss his next start. … Jose Abreu doubled and homered Monday as the White Sox fell to the Twins. … Liam Hendriks (forearm) returned from the IL Monday and struck out the side in his inning of work. … Carlos Santana reached base in all five trips to the plate Monday in San Diego. … Jon Heasley allowed two runs – one earned – over six innings Monday in Houston. … Garrett Hill tossed six innings of one-run ball against the Guardians on Monday in his major league debut. … Rich Hill has been diagnosed with a ligament tear in his left knee but is expected to be sidelined for only 2-4 weeks. … Jonathan Schoop collected six hits during the Tigers’ doubleheader sweep of the Guardians. … Kutter Crawford spun 5 2/3 scoreless innings on Monday to pick up a win against the Rays … Josh Naylor homered before being removed from the first game of Monday’s doubleheader against the Tigers with back spasms.

National League Quick Hits: Seiya Suzuki hit an inside-the-park homer and added a single Monday in his return from the injured list. … Julio Urías hurled six innings of one-run ball Monday in a win over the Rockies. … Juan Yepez homered and singled Monday against the Braves. … Nick Senzel went 2-for-4 with a home run on Monday versus the Mets. … Chris Taylor had to leave Monday’s game after aggravating his left foot injury. … Curt Casali strained an oblique Monday, which could lead to Joey Bart’s recall. … Mike Soroka (Achilles) is close to beginning a rehab assignment. … Brandon Crawford (knee) is expected to be activated from the injured list Tuesday when first eligible. … Braxton Garrett yielded one run over 7 1/3 innings on Monday versus the Nationals. … Patrick Corbin fanned four over seven innings of one-run ball on Monday against the Marlins.