CRISTOFER MELENDEZ, RIGHT HANDED PITCHER
|Born: September 16, 1997
Signed: Int’l Free Agent, 2014, Astros
How Acquired: Trade (from Padres)
Country: Dominican Republic
WTM’s PLAYER PROFILE
|Melendez struggled through three seasons in the Dominican Summer League before Houston gave up on him. The White Sox picked him up and he improved substantially, although he was old for the level by then. In those days, he was running his fastball up to 96, but didn’t hold his velocity well. In 2021, he was throwing in the upper-90s, touching 100. His out pitch is a curve and he also throws a change. San Diego selected him in the minor league phase of the 2018 Rule 5 draft. The Padres immediately sent him to the Pirates for cash in a deal that no doubt was worked out in advance.
Melendez pitched in short relief in his debut. He didn’t pitch as well as the ERA implies, as shown by his walk and K rates. He didn’t get hit hard, but opponents had a .382 OBP against him.
Back in the DSL and still pitching in relief, Melendez had a somewhat similar season, although his K rate was good.
In his third try at the DSL, Melendez went backwards. His walk and K rates regressed, and opponents got on base at a .407 clip. Houston released him after the season.
The White Sox signed Melendez at the end of spring training and sent him back to the DSL for his fourth try. Pitching mostly as a starter, he made dramatic progress, with a very high K rate and an opponents’ OPS of just .454.
Melendez joined Greensboro out of extended spring training in mid-May and spent the season there. He had an interesting year, with an outstanding K rate. He had control problems but not drastic ones and opponents only hit 203/327/314 against him. Somehow though — partly due to a very low strand rate of 62.5% — he had a bad ERA. His xFIP of 3.18 was very good. He had a big home/road split, with a .739 opponents’ OPS at home and .564 on the road, so the high-offense park at Greensboro may have inflated his overall numbers. He had a moderate platoon split, with right-handed hitters putting up a .611 OPS and left-handed hitters .706, with the difference mainly resulting from a very high walk rate against the latter.
Melendez opened the season in Greensboro, but after six outings the Pirates moved him up to Altoona. His performance there was a mixed bag, but better than his ERA suggests. He had a good K rate and opponents batted only .179 against him. He was hurt by an extremely low 54.7% strand rate. On the other hand, he walked too many and also benefited from a .235 BABIP. He had no platoon split. The Pirates may have promoted him so quickly because of his pending free agency, to get a chance to evaluate him.
Melendez was eligible for minor league free agency after the season and the Pirates didn’t add him to the 40-man roster, but they signed him to a minor league deal for 2022 and 2023. He spent most of 2022 with Indianapolis and continued to miss lots of bats, but the control problems got worse. He mostly got by with solid results, but had ERAs over 7.00 in August and September. He spent part of that stretch with Altoona, as the Pirates sent him there in early August. Left-handed hitters were a problem, putting up an .878 OPS against him. Right-handed hitters managed only .593. A lot of the trouble was walks, as he walked a quarter of the left-handed hitters he faced, compared to a still-not-good 16% of right-handed hitters.
Melendez has a power arm that has to be intriguing, but he’s 25 now and not making progress with the control troubles. The Pirates evidently will try again, though, in 2023.
|2023: Minor League Contract|
|Signing Bonus: N/A
MiLB Debut: 2015
MLB Debut: N/A
MiLB FA Eligible: 2023
MLB FA Eligible: N/A
Rule 5 Eligible: Eligible
Added to 40-Man: N/A
Options Remaining: 3
MLB Service Time: 0.000
|July 7, 2014: Signed by the Houston Astros as an international free agent.
August 25, 2017: Released by the Houston Astros.
April 3, 2018: Signed as a minor league free agent by the Chicago White Sox.
December 13, 2018: Selected by the San Diego Padres from the Chicago White Sox in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft.
December 13, 2018: Traded by the San Diego Padres to the Pittsburgh Pirates for cash considerations.