Royals C MJ Melendez leads minor leagues in circuits

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Players of the Kansas City Royals led the major and minor leagues in the circuits during the 2021 season.

Receiver Salvador Perez hit 48 home runs during the season, which ended Sunday, finishing tied with Toronto first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. for most in baseball.

Wide receiver MJ Melendez, who split his time between Class AA Northwest Arkansas and Class AAA Omaha, smashed 41 homers during the minor league season, winning the 2021 Joe Bauman Award.

“It’s an honor to win the Joe Bauman award because I watch Minor League Baseball and the number of good hitters and it’s amazing to finish the season at the top of this list,” Melendez said in a statement from Royals. “There are so many guys that I watch and am against throughout the season, and the amount of talent in Minor League Baseball right now is incredible. It’s very humbling to be at the top of this list and I’m grateful to my teammates and coaches who have pushed me throughout the season.

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The 22-year-old left-handed prospect pitched 28 home runs in 79 games at Northwest Arkansas and 13 in 44 games with Omaha after his promotion on Aug. 9.

Melendez’s 41 homers are second among all minor league players for the Royals, behind Chris Hatcher’s 46 hits in 1998 and the most minor league players since 2014 (Kris Bryant, 43).

Melendez is the 17th minor league player in baseball history to reach the top 40 on home runs, the first since 2016 and the first main receiver since Todd Greene reached 40 in 1995.

The Bauman Award is presented annually to the player who has made the most homeruns in the minor leagues since 2002.

Two former Royals farm workers, Chris Brazell (2007) and Mike Moustakas (2010), took home the award.

Royals senior vice president of baseball operations and general manager JJ Picollo called Melendez’s achievement “a great accomplishment for a player of any age, let alone 22.”

“He’s a great example of hard work and dedication to his craft, making adjustments to his approach to the plate and seeing it pay off,” Picollo said. “We are delighted as an organization to see MJ continue to thrive on the pitch.”

Melendez, who has played six multi-home run games and was Northwest Arkansas Player of the Year, also placed second among all minor leaguers in the RBI (103), third for the total bases (280) and hit percentage (.628) and fourth in extra base (66).

He joined the Royals’ organization as a second-round pick in the 2017 freshman draft from Westminster Christian High School in Daytona Beach, Fla.

Perez also led the RBI majors (121), becoming the second Royals player in history to be King of the RBI (Hal McRae in 1982, 133).

His 48 circuits equaled the franchise record set by Jorge Soler in 2019.

In the Royals’ first 50 seasons, no player led the league in home run. Soler’s 48 homers two years ago led the American League but were behind New York Mets slugger Pete Alonso (53).

Perez is the first Royals player to lead the majors in the circuits.

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