Florida International U

Melendez’s decision — go pro or attend FIU — is upcoming

Westminster Christian senior M.J. Melendez, rated the top high school catcher prospect for 2017 by Baseball America and the son of first-year FIU coach Mervyl Melendez, spearheads a loaded squad looking to win the Class 4A state title.
Westminster Christian senior M.J. Melendez, rated the top high school catcher prospect for 2017 by Baseball America and the son of first-year FIU coach Mervyl Melendez, spearheads a loaded squad looking to win the Class 4A state title. Westminster Christian

Play for pay or play in college for his father — that’s the tough choice MJ Melendez will have to make this summer.

Melendez, whose father, Mervyl, is the first-year baseball coach at FIU, is considered a top-30 MLB prospect for the draft that begins June 12.

A left-handed-hitting catcher at Miami Westminster Christian, Melendez will remain a Panthers fan no matter what he chooses.

“It’s awesome that my father is finally getting an opportunity at a school like FIU,” said MJ, who was the only catcher on Baseball America’s preseason All-America team. “He’s always been at pretty good universities, but nothing like FIU.

“Now that he is at a mid-major school and showing what he can do in his first year — it’s pretty awesome. I’m looking forward to the next couple of years to see what he can do there.”

MJ said his father, who has signed a highly rated recruiting class, is prepared to lose certain kids to the draft.

“That’s why he recruited a lot of players this season,” MJ said. “He will get some. Whatever he gets, they are going to be very good players.”

MIAMI

Archbishop McCarthy first baseman Alex Toral, a Miami recruit, is ranked the 55th-best prospect for the 2017 MLB Draft, and that includes college players.

That should be good enough to get Toral drafted in the first two rounds, but that might not happen. He has put up good numbers this season, but he has not been as dominant as in years past because he is getting walked and pitched around at a high rate.

If he does slip in the draft, Toral could opt to play for the Hurricanes, where his left-handed power bat could figure prominently in the 2018 lineup.

Miami’s recruiting class could also net them a starting shortstop in speedy Jeter Downs of Miami Monsignor Pace and a starting third baseman or shortstop in Mark Vientos, a first-team All-American from Plantation American Heritage.

But Downs, a potential five-tool talent; and Vientos are more likely to turn pro, according to scouts. Vientos “makes hard contact as often as anyone in this class,” according to Baseball America. Vientos is very projectable because he is only 17. He has room to grow on his slender 6-3 frame.

Toral, Downs and Vientos would likely start from Day One if they were to attend Miami.

ELSEWHERE

▪ For the third year in a row, St. Thomas has qualified for the 45-team NAIA national championships. The Bobcats (35-17) are the No. 2 seed in the Montgomery, Alabama, regional and will play No. 3-seed Huntington (Indiana) on Monday.

▪ Chicago Cubs center fielder Albert Almora, who signed with the Hurricanes out of high school (Miami Mater Academy), would have been a senior last season on the Miami team that made it to the College World Series. Instead, he was a part of a Cubs team that finally won the actual World Series, ending the Cubs’ 108-year-old drought.

▪ Baseball America rates ex-Hurricane Zack Collins as the third-best catching prospect in the minors. Ex-FIU catcher Aramis Garcia is No. 16 at his position.

▪ Former FIU pitcher Garrett Cave, now with Tampa, is considered the best draft prospect among the nation’s Division II players.

▪ Lipscomb junior outfielder Michael Gigliotti, who is from Archbishop McCarthy, is a top draft prospect.

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