After a breakout season in 2005, Kevin Melillo solidified his status as the Oakland A’s top second base prospect with a solid season for AA-Midland in 2006, where he led the Texas League in fielding percentage and hit .280 with 12 homers and 73 RBIs. He was rewarded for his efforts with a invitation to the Arizona Fall Leagues, where he is competing in the annual top prospect showcase as a member of the Phoenix Desert Dogs. We caught up with Kevin just before a Desert Dogs’ game against Grand Canyon.
OaklandClubhouse: I noticed that you have been playing some third base in addition to playing at second. Was adding a new position something that they have been working with you on at the AFL?
Kevin Melillo: Not really, it is one of those things where we have four middle infielders so [playing third base] is a chance for me to get in the line-up more and get some playing time. I really wanted to show that I am capable of playing more than just second base and I think it will be only beneficial to me down the road to have played at third. You are always looking for ways to get more at-bats, and this has definitely helped.
OC: Have you been comfortable down at third?
KM: So far I have been really comfortable. I played maybe one or two games at third at the start of college, but I really haven’t played there since then. I’ve made a few good plays already and I’ve turned some double-plays, so I’ve been happy with that. The philosophy at third is really the same [as at second]. Stay with the groundballs, make all of the plays in front of you.
OC: How has it been to work with [Sacramento River Cats’ manager] Tony DeFrancesco in the AFL after working with him in spring training?
KM: Good. When I found out that Tony was going to be the manager, I was really happy about that because, as you said, I’ve played with him in the spring and in past instructional leagues and we have a good relationship. It’s good to play for a manager that you know and are comfortable with. Now with Ken Macha being let go in Oakland, we are all anxious to see what is going to happen with Tony. We are all pulling for him, for sure.
OC: Have you heard if Tony will be getting an interview for the A’s managerial position?
KM: Oh, I don’t know. [laughing] I’m definitely not in the loop with all of that.
OC: Just before the A’s competed in the AFL, you were being mentioned as a possible candidate to be on the A’s ALCS roster. What was that whole experience like?
KM: I couldn’t have been happier for [Mark] Kiger (who was eventually added to the A’s roster and appeared in two ALCS games as a defensive replacement). That kid has gotten a couple of tough breaks over the past few years here with Oakland, so it was great to see him get an opportunity like that. He definitely deserved it.
It was pretty exciting how it all went down. I had taken a nap and I woke up and had four voicemail messages from [A’s Director of Player Development] Keith Lieppman and my agent telling me that they wanted to try me out [for a spot in the ALCS roster]. They flew Kiger up from San Diego and we worked out in the Instructional Leagues in front of Lieppman and the A’s staff. I missed the first week of Fall League workouts as we were trying to play in as many Instructional League games as possible. They had us leading off every inning, getting as many groundballs as we could, that sort of thing. It was really exciting to have had that opportunity. It would have been amazing [to play in the ALCS].
OC: What has the Arizona Fall League experience been like?
KM: It’s been great. The competition here is excellent. I thought we had great competition in the Texas League, but here you have guys from AA, AAA and guys with big league service time, so you are up against the best every game. There aren’t big crowds, but there are lots of scouts and agents on hand to watch. I had a really good first game and since then I haven’t been swinging it like I’d like to, but I know I’ll come around, so I’m not too worried about it. Just knowing I can compete at this level of competition is pretty special.
OC: What was it like to hit a homerun in your first AFL at-bat?
KM: It was exciting. I was just fortunate to get a good hitter’s count. It was a 2-1 count and I got a fastball, which is exactly what I like. I had never played in this park before [Phoenix Municipal Stadium, the A’s home park for major league games during spring training]. I had watched a big league game here from the bench [during spring training] when they called me up one time, but I wasn’t sure how the ball carried or anything like that. I hit it to center and I was busting out of the box trying to get a triple when it went out. It was great.
OC: This is the off-season where you could be added to the 40-man roster to be protected from the Rule 5 draft. Has the team talked to you at all about that?
KM: I haven’t had any direct conversations about that. I know my agent has talked to them about it a little bit, but I’m just in a wait-and-see mode right now. If I am one of the guys they add to the 40-man roster, it would be a great opportunity. But if I’m not added, I’m still young and I know that I’ll have other chances down the road.
OC: What are your plans for the off-season after the AFL is over?
KM: I am going to head back to Charlotte. I bought a house there and it was actually being built during the season and we just closed on it. Charlotte is where I did my rehab after my knee surgery last off-season, so I have people there I can work out with to get ready for the season. I am going to do a lot of agility work and strength training this off-season. I have to get in shape right away because spring training is just around the corner. We finish up here just before Thanksgiving and then it’s two months to spring training, so it’s a pretty quick turnaround.
OC: How did your knee hold up this season?
KM: My knee held up pretty well. I didn’t feel it at all until a little bit during the playoffs. It gets a little tight on me here [in the AFL], but it doesn’t effect my game at all and I know that it will go away in the off-season when I get back into all of the strength training with my legs.