Pittsburgh Pirates: Ivan Melendez Could Become a Draft Target
The Pittsburgh Pirates may have the opportunity to draft Ivan Melendez in this year’s draft, but should they take that opportunity?
If you’ve followed any college baseball this season, then you’ve absolutely heard of the University of Texas at Austin’s first baseman Ivan Melendez. The Longhorns first baseman has gained a ton of attention this spring and early summer for his light-tower power. But should the Pittsburgh Pirates consider selecting him in this year’s draft?
Melendez has earned the nickname “The Hispanic Titanic” for his titanic power output. He has hit 29 home runs this year alone in just 276 plate appearances, which puts him on a rate of nearly 70 through 650 plate appearances. His isolated slugging percentage of .497 is about the same as early-2000’s Barry Bonds. He’s also drawn 47 walks, leading to an impressive 17% walk rate.
Between Melendez’s prodigious power and plate discipline, the Hispanic Titanic has hit .406/.522/.903, posting a .579 wOBA. He’s not an all-or-nothing swinger either. He’s struck out 43 times, leading to a 15.6% strikeout rate. That’s an improvement of over 10% from last year when he struck out 26% of the time.
Between this year and last year, Melendez has 42 college home runs. He has a 1.240 OPS and isolated slugging percentage of .395. He’s previously been drafted before, last year by the Miami Marlins in the 16th round. So what reasons are there not to go after this hulking 6’3, 225-pound slugger?
The biggest is his lack of a position. Melendez is capable of defending first base but is still a potential liability. MLB Pipeline puts his defense at just a 40-grade. He’s also only regulated to first base. He’s a 30-grade runner, meaning that it’s first base or designated hitter. Although he’s doing a much better job of preventing strikeouts, his bat speed is a concern.
Melendez has the big slugger upside but has the big slugger downside as well. He is currently ranked as the 115th best prospect in this year’s draft by MLB Pipeline, and the Pirates have a pick right around there. Their 4th round selection will be the 110th overall selection in this year’s draft. So should the Pirates use that pick on Melendez?
I think there are a few factors at play here. Melendez would be a good use for the 4th round if the Pittsburgh Pirates go over slot at some point earlier in the draft. It’s entirely possible one of the top high school players like Elijah Green or Druw Jones falls to the Pirates, and that would mean the Pirates would go over slot at #4. Because of Melendez’s skill set, he’d likely be an under slot signing.
Another thing to consider is if the Pittsburgh Pirates would instead go with a pitcher here. Would they find more value in someone like Brandon Sporat instead and use another pick as an under slot opportunity? It’s very possible they do that and maximize their early-round selections instead of going under slot in the 4th round.
Still, I think it’s an opportunity the Pirates just can’t ignore completely. It’s a chance to get a big power hitter who is going to move through the minor leagues quickly. He’s already 22-years-old and would likely be on the major league doorstep by the end of 2023. There aren’t very many guys like that in the first five rounds, especially among the position players.