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Texas DH/1B Ivan Melendez announces return for 2022 season

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After dropping in the 2021 MLB Draft, the slugger from El Paso is coming back to prove himself as a fielder and improve his draft positioning.

NCAA Baseball: College World Series-Texas v Virginia Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

He’s coming back.

On Wednesday, Texas Longhorns designated hitter/first baseman Ivan Melendez announced via Twitter that after being selected in the 16th round of the 2021 MLB Draft by the Miami Marlins, he’ll return to the Forty Acres for his junior season on 2022.

Ranked as a top-200 prospect by ESPN, Melendez fell in the draft due to concerns about his glove after only playing a handful of games at first base in 2021 and then asked for above slot value after he was selected with the No. 479 pick.

“I just feel like they’re [MLB] evaluating me on half the player I am knowing that I basically DH’d the whole season and only played six games defensively,” Melendez told KTSM.com. “I feel like going back to Texas would be beneficial, but we’ll see.”

After transferring from Odessa College, the 6’3, 225-pounder hit .319 with 13 home runs and 51 RBI in his first season at Texas. During a remarkable stretch in April, Melendez hit home runs in six consecutive games, setting a school record.

The April home run binge by Melendez put him squarely on the radar of scouts as he flashed his tremendous raw power. As pitchers started to avoid leaving pitches up in the zone or out over the plate where the El Paso slugger could get extension, Melendez showed patience at the plate in drawing 34 walks.

However, he did struggle down the stretch and into the Big 12 Tournament as his batting average dropped from a high of .385. When Melendez slumped, his strikeout rate escalated and those issues culminating in a day off as Texas was eliminated in Oklahoma City. Melendez went out of the strike zone too often during that stretch and clearly allowed his confidence to drop, resulting in at bats that didn’t feature his most competitive approach.

Returning to Texas will allow Melendez the opportunity to be more consistent as a junior as he fills a crucial role as a power bat in the middle of the lineup for the Longhorns. A strong finish at the College World Series, including the go-ahead, three-run home run against Mississippi State to avoid elimination, affords Melendez the opportunity to attack the offseason with confidence as he rehabilitates from a wrist injury suffered in his final at bat in Omaha that required surgery.

Meanwhile, he’ll get a chance to show off his glove at first base next season after notching a perfect fielding percentage in five games in the field in 2021.

Melendez is now the final Texas player drafted to make a decision on his future, with his choice to return serving as arguably the single most important development from the 2021 MLB Draft for the Horns — head coach David Pierce’s 2022 team got a lot better on Wednesday.