Conine stays step ahead of Melendez in power race
In a race that has traversed three levels with a number of lead changes, Griffin Conine and MJ Melendez continued to duel -- and flex -- for the top spot in the Minor Leagues' home run column this season.
In a race that has traversed three levels with a number of lead changes,
The neck-and-neck competition held serve Wednesday night as each slugger found the seats, and Conine maintained his one long ball lead.
For a brief period of time, the 16th-ranked Marlins prospect opened up a two-dinger cushion early in the evening. Following a 6:21 p.m. ET start at Blue Wahoos Stadium, Conine launched the second pitch he saw from rehabbing starter Brendan McKay over the wall in center field. The blast followed a tater from Peyton Burdick and was part of a three-homer frame for Pensacola. The club, which was debuting its bright orange Crabzilla uniforms, erupted for a season-high five roundtrippers en route to a 7-2 victory over Montgomery.
The home run was the 24-year-old's 30th of the year. After opening the season with High-A Beloit and mashing 23 jacks over 66 games, Conine was called up to the Blue Wahoos on July 20. The left-handed swinger hasn't missed a beat -- finding the seats seven times in 20 games, including five taters this month.
“I think when one guy or two guys get going, it trickles down,” Burdick told the Pensacola website after the game.
About 1,000 miles away, Melendez opened his action at 7:06 p.m. CT at Werner Park. In his Triple-A debut with Omaha, the No. 13 Royals prospect did not waste any time making his presence felt. Melendez threw out attempted basestealer Zach Davis at third in the opening frame, then crushed a 3-0 fastball from righty Cory Abbott the other way for a two-run homer in the fourth of the Storm Chasers' 12-7 loss to Iowa. The blast marked the 22-year-old's first two RBIs at the Minors' highest level.
Melendez opened the year with Northwest Arkansas, where he paced the Double-A circuit with 28 dingers over 79 games. The backstop's 29th long ball with Omaha gave him 67 RBIs on the year.
"I don't think I've ever had this type of stretch for this long, at least that I can remember," Melendez, who has already surpassed his home run output from his last two seasons combined, told MiLB.com. "I've done a lot of good work with our staff and have bought into the process. Anything that we work on, I've tried to continue developing it and trusting in it no matter the results. I know if I do that, those results will end up being positive."
If there is any doubt that both players have been keeping tabs on what the other is doing on a nightly basis, consider their mutual connection during the offseason.
"The funny thing about what's going on with us is that his dad [former Major League All-Star Jeff Conine] will be the assistant coach for my dad [Mervyl Melendez] at Florida International University next season," Melendez said. "It's a good bed Griff and I will be seeing and working out a lot together in the offseason."
Rob Terranova is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @RobTnova24.