Mervyl “MJ” Melendez, Jr. is entering just his junior year of high school, but the catcher from Montgomery, Alabama is already catching the eye of scouts to play the game he loves at the next level. Melendez currently has a 1.83 pop time from home to second base which was timed during a Perfect Game showcase this summer. Defense is something Melendez takes a lot of pride in. He is very fundamentally and mechanically sound behind the plate. Something that his father, Mervyl Sr., started working on with him from a young age.
MJ, who has been playing the game from a young age, credits his father for everything he knows in baseball.
“That’s the man that taught me the game. Without him, I don’t know where I’d be as a player. I give all the credit to him,” MJ mentioned. “We have always worked on, from the very beginning as far back as I can remember, doing everything the right way and having good mechanics.”
“We have to go back to when he was a young boy, I concentrated on a lot of the mental part of the game. We didn’t talk a lot about how to hit the ball hard or to hit a home run because a lot of that is just natural,” Mervyl said.
“Fundamentally the catching aspect and hitting. Just working on how to do it right. How to catch the right way and how to throw the right way and how to frame the right way. As well as the path of the swing and the mechanics of the swing. Receiving and throwing is probably his greatest strength at this point.”
MJ is quick to say that because of all of the hard work he and his dad put forth when he was younger on those mechanics, that that is one of his biggest strengths on the diamond.
“I think that’s really my greatest attribute: being very mechanically sound. When I was younger, I was the smallest person on my team so I wasn’t hitting home runs like everyone else,” MJ said. “But, I was sure to do everything mechanically right that I possibly could. It is sure paying off for me in the long run. As I’m getting stronger, I’m already mechanically sound.”
When you ask the two, who MJ models his game after, or which catcher he most makes you think of, they both give you the same answer: Yadier Molina.
“If I were to compare him to someone currently, it would be tough because his body type is different from some of the guys that are playing the game right now,” Mervyl said. “I think Yadier Molina comes to mind. Also, Mike Matheny back when he played, I loved the way he caught. I loved his framing and that is something that we’ve worked on.”
“Playing style behind the plate, I like to model my game after Molina. I do the one knee down, kind of like he does.” MJ answered.
He knows his strengths on the field, but is also quick to tell you what he feels he needs a little more work on.
“I think that being a more consistent hitter is something that I need to work on. At times, I can be a very good hitter and at times I can be an average hitter. I want to be a great hitter and a very consistent hitter so I can separate myself from the rest of the pack.”
Coming into his junior year of high school, MJ is poised to be a high draft pick should his development continue. That is something he says he’s talked with his family about, but he also knows that he has options as well.
“It’d be a true honor to be drafted out of high school. Honestly, for me it would take the right situation. I know that there will be clear signs that I need to take it or not. If I do get drafted and it’s not the right opportunity, it’d be awesome to go play college ball. Right now I’m trying to stay as humble as possible because you never know what could happen. I just have to keep working and getting my name out there.”
Mervyl said that he’s trying not to put any pressure on MJ, and that he wants his development to continue.
“I’m very adamant about letting him play and just letting him concentrate on the moment. I want him to focus on getting better as a baseball player rather than mapping the future for him.”
“I wear a gold cross on a necklace and I pray before every game and I wear a couple of bracelets. One that says ‘Pray First’ and the other says ‘Jesus is the answer’. I want to give thanks to the one that has provided me with all of the opportunities that I’ve gotten.”
During the 2015 summer baseball season, the 6’1″ Melendez got the chance to not only play with his summer team, FTB Pride, but also to participate in showcases with organizations like Perfect Game USA as well as participate in the Underclassmen Area Code Games. He was also named to the Preseason High School All-America High Honorable Mention team by Perfect Game USA.