KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Players for the Kansas City Royals led the major and minor leagues in home runs during the 2021 season.
Catcher Salvador Perez drilled 48 home runs during the season, which ended Sunday, finishing tied with Toronto first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. for the most in baseball.
Fellow catcher M.J. Melendez, who split time between Class AA Northwest Arkansas and Class AAA Omaha, smashed 41 home runs during the minor-league season, winning the 2021 Joe Bauman Award.
“It’s an honor to earn the Joe Bauman Award because I look at Minor League Baseball and the number of good hitters and it’s amazing to finish the season at the top of that list,” Melendez said in a statement from the Royals. “There are so many guys that I watch and catch against throughout the season, and the amount of talent in Minor League Baseball right now is incredible. It’s very humbling to be at the top of that list and I’m grateful for my teammates and coaches that pushed me throughout the season.”
The 22-year-old left-handed prospect launched 28 home runs in 79 games at Northwest Arkansas and 13 in 44 games with Omaha after his Aug. 9 promotion.
Melendez’s 41 homers are the second-most by any Royals minor leaguer, trailing only the 46 hit by Chris Hatcher in 1998 and the most for any minor-league player since 2014 (Kris Bryant, 43).
Melendez is the 17th minor-league player in baseball history to top 40 home runs, the first since 2016 and the first primary catcher since Todd Greene hit 40 in 1995.
The Bauman Award has been given annually to the player with most home runs in the minor leagues since 2002.
Two past Royals farmhands, Chris Brazell (2007) and Mike Moustakas (2010), have won the award.
Royals Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations and General Manager J.J. Picollo called Melendez’s feat “a tremendous accomplishment for a player of any age, much less 22 years old.”
“He is a prime example of hard work and dedication to his craft, making adjustments to his approach at the plate and seeing it pay off,” Picollo said. “We’re excited as an organization to watch MJ continue to thrive on the field.”
Melendez, who had six multi-home run games and was the Northwest Arkansas Player of the Year, also ranked second among all minor leaguers in RBIs (103), third in total bases (280) and slugging percentage (.628) and fourth in extra-base hits (66).
He joined the Royals organization as a second-round pick in the 2017 First-Year Player Draft from Westminster Christian High School in Daytona Beach, Florida.
Perez also led the majors in RBIs (121), becoming the second Royals player in history to be the RBI king (Hal McRae in 1982, 133).
His 48 home runs tied the franchise record set by Jorge Soler in 2019.
During the Royals' first 50 seasons, no player led the league in home run. Soler's 48 homers in two years ago led the American League, but trailed New York Mets slugger Pete Alonso (53).
Perez is the first Royals player to lead the majors in home runs.