KANSAS CITY -- The All-Star break was a welcome respite for MJ Melendez, who used the four days to reset his mind and reset his swing after a frustrating first half.
The Royals' outfielder slashed .206/.289/.333 with six homers and 103 strikeouts in 84 games before the break and searched for answers about his swing while also trying to get better in the outfield. During the break, he was able to get in the batting cage back in his hometown of Miami with no distractions or worries about having to go compete that night.
What he found has him in a much better place, mentally and physically, than he was in before.
“It was a deeper dive into my swing,” Melendez said. “Obviously, the results weren’t great in the first half. It’s hard to try to fix that when you’re playing every day. You can only take so many swings a day before the game, even if you have a couple days off. So it was nice to work on some things and implement them into my game swing.”
Melendez altered his batting stance a bit so his hands are placed slightly farther away from his body. That’s allowed him to stay in line with the ball better instead of cutting off his swing.
“You want to hit the ball out front, but for me, when I was hitting the ball out front, my barrel was already coming out of the zone by the time I hit it,” Melendez said. “So I think that’s part of the reason I was a little bit late. I tried to adjust so I could hit a little deeper, keeping my hands more toward center field instead of toward the dugout.”
Melendez has played in just six games post-All-Star break. But the double and home run he hit against the Rays on Sunday both traveled to right-center field, which is how Melendez knows his mechanics are right.
“It looks like his balance is better, his direction is better,” manager Matt Quatraro said. “You see more consistent swings on pitches that he can do damage.”
Now that Melendez feels like has cues to keep his swing in line, it’s about creating muscle memory in game reps through the second half and into the offseason.
As a core piece of the Royals’ offense, Melendez must cut his 29.5 percent strikeout rate down and flash more of the power he’s known for. Adjusting his swing to get back on time was a step toward that; making better, more consistent swing decisions is next.
“I would consider how I was doing so far offensively really not good at all, but those failures can help build me up to have success,” Melendez said. “You learn more about yourself when you go through all those things. So I’ve been trying to come to the ballpark with a positive attitude every day. Some days it was easier than others. Some days it was pretty difficult because I’ve been struggling. I was trying to figure out how to fix the problem [and] wasn’t getting the results, so that was tough mentally. But you learn about yourself through those hard times.”