Melillo Thriving on Defense, Too

Double-A Midland's Kevin Melillo is no stranger to Oakland Clubhouse readers, or the A's nation in general. Widely considered to be the top second base prospect in the organization, the 24-year-old lefty hitting infielder is having another fine season with the bat, but even more so with the glove.

It could be argued that Melillo is having his best year with the leather since being drafted. In fact, it seems to be a foregone conclusion.

The former fifth-round pick from the 2004 draft days leads the Texas League in fielding percentage among second basemen with a .991 clip. He has committed just five errors in over 550 total chances this season after 16 errors a year ago between three stops on the minor league circuit.

For Melillo, the biggest thing with regards to his improvement in the field was simply a matter of gaining confidence.

"It's not so much anything I worked on in the off-season. It had a lot to do with confidence and repetition, and hard work," Melillo says. "When I had a chance to go to the Instructional League last year and work with Juan Navarette, our roving infield instructor, I got a little more comfortable and picked up some confidence.

"Also, some of the fields I've played on this year are a little better than those in the Midwest League. You don't get as many hops and I've been very sure-handed this year. To play 120 games and have only five errors, I'm pretty excited."

That's understandable. Meanwhile, Melillo's hitting remains solid with a .283 average, 12 homers, 28 doubles and 68 RBIs in 125 games. While plenty has changed with regards to defense, his hitting approach has remained the same all along.

"I don't think I'm doing anything different," Melillo said of his season at the plate. "I've been the same pretty much all year. I'm starting to get a few breaks right now. Earlier in the year, I was hitting about .260, but was making outs and hitting the ball hard right at people. Now I'm starting to find holes and would like to finish the season around that .290 to .295 mark."

Melillo's success with the stick has come from multiple slots in the batting order. Technically, he's appeared in at least one game at every spot in the order with the exception of cleanup this year.

And on Monday, Melillo got word that he'd be one of the A's seven annual prospects that will represent the organization in the Arizona Fall League this coming October. Prospects from the A's, Blue Jays, Reds, Devil Rays and Tigers will combine to make up the 30-man Phoenix Desert Dogs roster when AFL play begins Oct. 10.

Scheduled to join Melillo are pitchers Dallas Braden, Connor Robertson, Marcus McBeth and Mike Mitchell. Catcher Landon Powell and OF Travis Buck will also be on hand. The team will be managed by Sacramento skipper Tony DeFrancesco.

Melillo was hoping to garner the invitation a year ago and finally got his wish this season.

"I was hoping to go last year, but was sent back to Instructs to improve my game there," he said. "I know it's (AFL) a big stepping stone. It's just a huge part of your career to be invited. So many great things have happened for other players there. It's certainly something good for your career and to be listed among those top prospects is a great honor."

Entering play Wednesday, the RockHounds are 32-25, a half-game in front of second-place Frisco in the Texas League's Southern Division with less than a month to play in the regular season.

Melillo believes – and almost prefers to an extent – that he'll finish the season with Midland rather than earn a potential promotion to Triple-A. Moreover, he makes the fearless prediction that the Hounds will be the only team left standing in the Texas League once the dust settles next month.

"The lineup we have right now is unbelievable," Melillo said. "I don't see any team slowing us down right now. We have the pitching and the defense in our lineup from top to bottom."

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