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Unsigned Marlins draft pick Ivan Melendez finishes college season with 32 home runs

Melendez made the right decision to stay in school.

Texas Longhorns infielder Ivan Melendez (17) hits the ball during the game between Texas Longhorns and Oklahoma State Cowboys on April 29, 2022, at UFCU Disch-Falk Field in Austin, TX. Photo by David Buono/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In 2022, University of Texas first baseman Ivan Melendez emerged as the best hitter in college baseball. In 67 games, he put up jaw-dropping numbers: a .387/.507/.863 slash line with 32 home runs, 94 runs batted in and more walks (52) than strikeouts (51). The Longhorns made it to the College World Series but were eliminated on Sunday by Texas A&M.

The breakout of the “Hispanic Titanic” does not benefit the Miami Marlins in any direct way. However, it’s perhaps another shred of evidence that the team’s amateur scouting department has good processes in place.

Melendez was productive for Texas in 2021, too (.319/.438/.603, 13 HR, 51 RBI, 34 BB, 65 K in 59 G). Baseball America ranked him 199th overall in the final edition of their top MLB draft prospects list that year.

Here’s part of BA’s blurb on him:

Melendez sees himself as a hitter first, and he does have a shot to be a fringe-average hitter. But his calling card is plus power and he posts the exit velocities to prove it. With his long limbs, he has solid plate coverage. He eats up pitchers on the outer third, with the ability to drive balls to the opposite-field power alley.

On talent alone, Melendez was projected to be taken within the first 10 rounds of the 2021 draft, but he was in no hurry to leave Texas. As detailed by Max Olson of The Athletic, he felt that he could improve by spending another year there. Those signability concerns caused him to fall to the Marlins in the 16th round (No. 479 overall).

The Marlins essentially drafted Melendez as a backup plan. They picked three high school players in the early rounds—infielders Kahlil Watson and Jordan McCants and catcher Joe Mack—so in case one of them was unable to strike a deal with the Fish, that would’ve left some wiggle room in the team’s draft bonus pool to offer Melendez real money. It’s unclear whether the slugger had a “magic number” in mind to buy out his remaining college eligibility. No 16th-round pick in Marlins history has ever made the majors as anything more than a relief pitcher/spot starter, so you can understand why they’d be willing to take a big swing on Melendez.

On the newly released BA 500, Melendez’s draft stock has risen dramatically. He’s the 51st-ranked prospect in the country as of Monday. His hit and field tools have both been upgraded from a year ago (from 45 to 50 and from 50 to 55, respectively). “He’ll likely be the earliest first baseman off the board and could be a quick riser up the minor league ladder,” his 2022 blurb reads.

Will Melendez wind up with the Marlins after all? We’ll find out next month.