It hasn’t taken long for Mervyl Melendez to make an impact at FIU.
With a veteran bunch in his first season, Melendez led the Panthers to a 31-27 record with a 15-15 mark in Conference USA play. That was a solid first step, but where he’s really made strides is on the recruiting trail, where he put together a class that rivals the classes put together by some of biggest-name programs in the country.
Melendez and his staff, most notably recruiting coordinator Jered Goodwin, really swung for the fences and did all they could to bring in the type of talent that you typically see in leagues like the SEC and ACC. When you play in the rarified air of the elite prospects in the country, however, you’re going to lose some, and that’s precisely what happened, as FIU lost quite a bit of their class to pro baseball.
But that’s not to say that they didn’t bring in a stout class, because they absolutely did. The recruiting rankings speak for themselves. In D1Baseball.com’s recent ranking of the top classes, FIU came in 22nd, several spots ahead of traditional powers like Oregon State and Mississippi State and one spot ahead of in-state foe UCF.
One headliner of the class is 15th-round pick Christian Santana, a big righty who runs his fastball into the low-90s. With a chance to fill out with a college strength program, it’s easy to see Santana becoming the type of flame-throwing pitcher who can dominate games. Another big name is lefty Logan Allen, a 16th-round pick. Along with Santana, it will be interesting to see if they can carve out roles for themselves right away.
Two other FIU recruits were drafted but chose to attend school rather than begin pro careers.
Joe Sanchez, a left-handed pitcher who was selected in the 39th round, will be among those trying to find their way to the mound as a freshman. And then there’s Jose Garcia, a catching prospect who was selected in the 38th round. With Zach Soria and J.C. Escarra gone, there’s a hole to be filled behind the plate. And while he’ll be pushed and it’s probably not a sure thing, you have to figure Garcia has the talent to elbow his way into the conversation to take on some playing time back there.
When you look at this incoming group of players and the position FIU is currently in as a program, it’s hard not to compare it to USF just a few years ago. Then-head coach Mark Kington led USF to regionals in his first season at the helm with a veteran club (a difference between the two situations), and in the ensuing season, welcomed a talented, nationally-lauded recruiting class.
They went through some growing pains in Kingston’s second season, and the product on the field wasn’t always pretty, but those kids got a lot of much-needed playing time, and it ended up paying off. The Bulls were back in the postseason the very next year, with many of those big-name recruits developing into big-time players at the college level.
Melendez has won big everywhere he’s been, and it’s easy to envision this recruiting class being the beginning of his push to win big at FIU.