FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Melendez, A. Díaz, Duran, Bradish, Suwinski

First Impressions is a look at recent call-ups, a snapshot of their early progress so far in the majors. Initial Call-Ups reports on all of the players in today's column can be found in the News tab on their individual PlayerLink pages (linked from the player name below). Because many of these players have accumulated less than 100 PA or 50 IP, small sample size warnings apply to the analysis here.


First Impression: MJ Melendez (C, KC)

CALLED UP: 5/1/2022
CURRENT ROLE: Starting DH/Backup C
2022 MINORS STATS: Omaha (AAA)—91 PA, .167/.286/.295, 4 2B, 2 HR, 0.59 Eye, 3 SB

Year   PA   BA    xBA  HR  bb%  ct%  HctX  GB/LD/FB   PX/xPX  HR/F
====  ===  ====  ====  ==  ===  ===  ====  ========  =======  ====
2021^ 531  .251   N/A  29   11   73   N/A     N/A    143/N/A   N/A
2022   97  .270  .245   4    8   75   136  39/18/43  115/153   14%
^Double-A/Triple-A MLEs

A strong debut that comes with full skill support:

  • After posting a 55% contact rate in High-A in 2019, Melendez retooled his swing and bounced back to hit 41 HR (non-MLE) combined between Double-A and Triple-A in 2021, leading the entire minors. That power skill has already made its way to the majors, as he's currently on a 25 HR full-season pace, and thanks to elite hard contact and a high FB%, xPX suggests there's more where that came from. His Statcast numbers have been terrific as well: 92.0 mph exit velocity, a 49.3% HardHit%, and a 10.4% Barrel%. Despite missing the first month of the season, he could make a run at 20 HR if he sticks around all year.
  • In addition, he's maintained the contact growth that he displayed in the minors in 2021, so he's not selling out for this power in the majors, nor looking overmatched. His high fly ball rate puts a drag on his batting average, but a .250-.260 xBA range looks very sustainable, and with the league hovering around .240, MLB's lowest BA in over 50 years, he's at least a good bet to deliver a BA that won't hurt you in 2022, with the potential for a higher BA in the future. And he walks enough to offer solid value with additional upside in OBP leagues.
  • The sample size is small, just 21 PA so far, but he seems to be holding his own against left-handed pitching. His .381 BA and 1.048 OPS are being inflated by a 44% hit rate, but underneath that, he has an 81% contact rate and 142 PX against southpaws. That should help keep him in the lineup nearly everyday at least a little longer.

The 23-year-old Melendez first got this opportunity when Cam Gallagher went on the IL, and then continued to get playing time when Sal Perez got hurt. Now that Perez is back, the Royals have been shifting Melendez over to the DH spot, and have even tried him twice in right field. (He also played two games in RF in Triple-A this year, and nine games at 3B in 2021.) They clearly want to keep his bat in the lineup as often as possible, and the skills he's displayed thus far suggest what he's doing is sustainable, though as with any rookie, you should be prepared for the possibility of bumps in the road. Long-term, his outlook as a plus power hitter with a good batting average seems right on target—he continues to look like one of the best catching prospects in all of baseball. (And ranked 44th on our BaseballHQ Top 100 Prospects list this spring.)

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First Impression: Jhoan Duran (RHP, MIN)

CALLED UP: 4/7/2022
POTENTIAL ROLE: Starting pitcher/Closer

Year  IP   ERA  xERA  BB%   K% K-BB%    SwK  GB/LD/FB  H%/S%  HR/F 
====  ==  ====  ====  ===  === =====  =====  ========  =====  ====
2019# 37  6.58   N/A   6%  23%   16%    N/A     N/A    36/43   N/A
2020  --------------Spent at alternate training site--------------
2021+ 16  5.06   N/A  17%  29%   12%    N/A     N/A    39/73   N/A
2022  24  2.22  2.17   4%  38%   34%  20.1%  52/14/34  23/86   24%
#Double-A MLEs
+Triple-A non-MLEs

Simply incredible:

  • While Duran worked as a starter in the minors, he has pitched exclusively out of the bullpen in the majors, and that has helped to quickly transform him into a relief ace. Thanks to a fastball that is averaging 100.7 mph, he was already emerging as a good strikeout pitcher, but his K% and SwK have reached rarefied air, as he's currently tied for 4th in K% among pitchers with at least 20 IP. And he's doing it with more than just the fastball—in fact, he has four elite pitches going: his four-seam (51.2% usage, 18.5% SwK), sinker (20.4% usage, 26.8% SwK), curveball (19.0% usage, 19.7% SwK), and slider (9.5% usage, 18.2% SwK). The bulk of his strikeouts are coming against right-handed hitters (46% K%), but he's not exactly struggling against lefties either (28%).
  • The strikeouts alone would be enough to make him a competitive force in the bullpen, but he's also delivered an elite walk rate. His first-pitch strike rate is below average (57%), but his Ball% is 31%, which is also elite, and suggests what he's been doing has not been a fluke.
  • Add in an elite ground ball rate—and one that tracks with his work in the minors—on top of all of that, and that's how you wind up with a 2.17 xERA and 223 BPV. The sample size is still small, but right now, he's a top-notch closer, while the skills of his co-closer, Emilio Pagán, are not in the same league: 27% K%, 14% K-BB%, 4.09 xERA, 75 BPV. Duran is the better bet for the remainder of 2022.

At 24, Duran is one of the Twins best pitching prospects, and this electric debut suggests he could quickly become a dominant and valuable closer, and that role is where he is likely to remain for the rest of the 2022 season, partly out of workload concerns, since he didn't pitch competitively in 2020 and missed a lot of time with elbow issues in 2021. But beyond this season, the door is probably still open for him to get another shot at starting, and the early strength of pitches other than his fastball is an encouraging sign. If you're fortunate enough to have him rostered in a keeper league, you should be very happy with his development thus far.


First Impression: Alexis Díaz (RHP, CIN)

CALLED UP: 4/7/2022
CURRENT ROLE: Setup reliever
POTENTIAL ROLE: Setup reliever/Closer

Year  IP   ERA  xERA  BB%   K% K-BB%    SwK  GB/LD/FB  H%/S%  HR/F 
====  ==  ====  ====  ===  === =====  =====  ========  =====  ====
2021# 43  4.78   N/A  12%  33%   21%    N/A     N/A    35/63   N/A
2022  24  1.13  3.83  13%  32%   19%  16.9%  33/14/53  18/90    4%
#Double-A MLEs

Small sample, but he's got our attention:

  • Díaz was not viewed as a significant prospect coming into 2022, but he did post some intriguing skills in Double-A in 2021, and has continued that performance in his MLB debut. The skill that stands out is his strikeout rate, which has been backed by an elite SwK, with both of his offerings generating Ks: his four-seam fastball (70.6% usage, 16.1% SwK) and his slide (29.4% usage, 20.5% SwK).
  • Working against those strikeouts are an extreme fly ball rate (his rate in Double-A was 43%, so he might not stay this extreme) and some control problems. The walks were part of his package in 2021 as well, though he's striking out out enough batters to maintain an elite K-BB% anyway. His 37% Ball% and 59% first-pitch strike rate are both slightly below average, suggesting these control issues will linger.
  • Because of those fly balls and walks, his xERA is nearly three runs higher, as he's been benefiting greatly from good fortune across the board: his hit, stand, and HR/F rates have all been very, very kind. That xERA paints a much different picture of his potential that his stellar actual ERA.
  • He has been dominating right-handers, with a 44% K% and 30% K-BB%. Against left-handed hitters, those numbers fall to 18% and 7%, suggesting that lefties could eventually become a thorn in his side. (Right now, he's being helped by an 18% hit rate against them.)

The 25-year-old Díaz (the younger brother of Mets closer Edwin Díaz) has been a pleasant surprise so far, and his low ERA has him moving up the ladder in the Reds bullpen. But his higher xERA and 92 BPV suggest he's not really a strong closer candidate at this point, and our BaseballHQ Call-Ups scouting report from Chris Blessing indicated that Díaz's control issues can lead to hot streaks as well as times where things can fall apart quickly. That said, his strikeout prowess makes him a young bullpen arm worth keeping on your radar. If the Reds can address some of the flaws that are holding him back, Díaz could emerge as a late-inning option in the near future.


First Impression: Kyle Bradish (RHP, BAL)

CALLED UP: 4/29/2022
CURRENT ROLE: Starting pitcher
POTENTIAL ROLE: Starting pitcher
2022 MINORS STATS: Norfolk (AAA)—1.20 ERA, 15.0 IP/3 GS, 1.8 BB/9, 10.2 K/9, 5.7 K/BB

Year   IP   ERA  xERA  BB%   K% K-BB%    SwK  GB/LD/FB  H%/S%  HR/F 
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  === =====  =====  ========  =====  ====
2021^ 101  4.20   N/A  11%  21%   11%    N/A     N/A    33/74   N/A
2022   33  6.82  3.89   8%  24%   17%  12.0%  43/22/35  36/60   24%
^Double-A/Triple-A MLEs

His skills have been better than his outcomes, with one exception:

  • Bradish has suffered through an ugly start to his MLB career, with a 6.82 ERA and 1.55 WHIP, but he's been the victim of a trifecta of bad luck, thanks to a low hit rate and high strand and HR/F rates. His xERA is nearly three runs lower, which is a remarkable difference between surface stats and skills, and one you could potential capitalize on.
  • However, there's reason to question his above-average walk rate so far. His 39% Ball% and 51% first-pitch strike rate are both subpar, suggesting he's likely to issue more walks going forward, and that tracks with his minor league MLE. More walks would push his xERA over 4.00, making him slightly less appealing, though still highly undervalued.
  • His K% is a better match for his underlying skill, and he does appear to have the makings of at least one elite strikeout pitch, as his slider, which he throws 27.1% of the time, has been generating a 21.9% SwK. But a higher walk rate might push his K-BB% from its current above-average standing to slightly below-average; at the moment, he lacks a truly plus skill, as even his ground ball rate is right around league average.

The 25-year-old Bradish is not a top prospect—he's considered to have back-end starter upside, with moving to the bullpen still a realistic long-term possibility—and his terrible performance so far would seem to put his playing time at risk, but the Orioles are short on starting pitching options after losing John Means and Chris Ellis for the season, so it appears he'll continue getting chances. He could be worth a look in deep leagues, as his xERA suggests better results could be forthcoming, though control issues will probably raise that target over 4.00.


First Impression: Jack Suwinski (OF, PIT)

CALLED UP: 4/26/2022
2022 MINORS STATS: Altoona (AA)—57 PA, .353/.421/.686, 8 2B, 3 HR, 0.36 Eye, 1 SB

Year   PA   BA    xBA  bb%  ct%  HctX  GB/LD/FB   PX/xPX  HR/F  Spd/SBA  HR/SB
====  ===  ====  ====  ===  ===  ====  ========  =======  ====  =======  =====
2021# 449  .223   N/A   13   63   N/A     N/A    113/N/A   N/A   87/N/A  13/ 8
2022  109  .208  .229    6   70    83  44/18/38  106/115   19%  105/ 5%   5/ 1
#Double-A MLEs

Good power; the rest still needs work:

  • Power is Suwinski's strongest skill, and that has been on display in his first crack at the majors, as he's hit them at roughly a 25-30 HR pace in his debut. xPX supports the output, though that's mainly due to a high fly ball rate—his hard contact has been subpar, as have his Statcast metrics, with the exception of an 11.3% Barrel% that ranks in the 80th percentile.
  • He's delivered that power while improving his contact skill—he's still below average, but considering his 2021 MLE and the fact that he struck out 141 times in 408 AB (65% contact) in High-A in 2019, any sign of growth is a positive. A 24% hit rate has sunk his batting average, and while a .229 xBA is not great either, it would put him a lot closer to league average performance, and might buy him more playing time if some of those hits start falling. Bringing the patience he displayed in Double-A in 2021 would also help, as it might improve his value in OBP leagues.
  • He seems to be holding his own against LHP through a small 32 PA sample, with a 77% contact rate and 98 PX. But a ridiculously tiny 5% hit rate against southpaws has made it look like he's flailing (.100 BA, .456 OPS).
  • He's not a huge basestealer, but came close to double digits in Double-A in 2019, and his Statcast sprint speed ranks in the 84th percentile. If he can tap back into the patience he owned in Double-A as well, his running game could benefit.

Given that he has zero Triple-A experience, the 23-year-old Suwinski will probably get sent there at some point in 2022, especially since the Pirates have a bunch of OF/DH bats expected to come off the IL in the coming weeks. His power has been enough to make him of modest fantasy value in 2022, and his skills suggest that he'll likely continue in that same vein. Long-term, he'll need to add another skill to go along with the power, with patience being the best bet; that should also be your approach to his development.

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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.