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Under the Radar: Cristofer Melendez

Former Astro farmhand has rejuvenated his career with the DSL White Sox

Under the Radar details players in the Chicago White Sox system who may have suffered setbacks, gotten lost in the shuffle, or just haven’t surfaced as significant prospects as of yet.Next up is Cristofer Melendez, who has been one of the few shining lights for a team that’s lost 42 of its first 53 games. Just earlier today, he pitched six shutout innings and allowed just four hits (without walking anyone) while striking out eleven.

Cristofer Melendez (RHP) — DSL White Sox

Despite the terrible record, some DSL White Sox pitchers have actually turned in good years: Yordi Rosario, Luis Nin, Wilber Perez (mostly with the Brewers’ DSL squad), Yoelvin Silven and Hector Acosta. As good as those pitchers have been, the most consistent pitcher on the team has been Melendez.

Melendez, a native of the Dominican Republic, was signed as an international free agent by the Astros in July 2014. While pitching for the AZL Astros squad in 2015-17, his performance worsened with each year — he was primarily a reliever during that time. His ERA rose from 2.78 to 3.86 to 7.68; predictably, his other peripherals also got worse. The Astros released him at the end of the 2017 season and the White Sox signed him as a free agent, with no fanfare, in April.

In 12 games (and eight starts) for the DSL White Sox, Melendez has posted a nifty 1.65 ERA and 0.97 WHIP, while allowing just 32 hits and 21 walks in 54 23 innings of work — all while punching out 72 hitters. Opponents are hitting just .162 against Melendez, while striking out 33.2% of the time against his offerings; Melendez’s control has been respectable, walking hitters at a 9.7% rate.

Melendez is a right-handed pitcher who will turn 21 in September. He has a nice, projectable starting pitcher’s build (six-foot-three, 170 pounds), with clean arm action and solid mechanics. He throws a fastball that jumps out of his hand, and has solid feel for a curveball. His repertoire may also include a groovy changeup, which would explain why lefties are hitting a microscopic just .096 against him compared to .218 against righties. The age is a bit of a concern, because he’s 1.6 years older than league average. Jose Nin from last year’s DSL squad was even older last year, however, and he’s pitched admirably for Kannapolis out of the bullpen in 2018. I envision Melendez beginning next year in Great Falls’s starting rotation, with an opportunity for promotion to the Intimidators if all goes well.