Matt Jones is the online sports director for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A double graduate of the University of Arkansas, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, and voter for the Heisman Trophy.
Arkansas grad transfer catcher going pro instead
Eastern Kentucky's A.J. Lewis (12) bats during an NCAA college baseball game against Western Kentucky, Tuesday, March 26, 2019, in Richmond, Ky. (AP Photo/Bryan Woolston)
FAYETTEVILLE Catchers Robert Emery and A.J. Lewis planned to play their final year of college baseball together as graduate transfers at Arkansas next season.
Instead, both players have opted to begin their professional careers this year.
In a text message to WholeHogSports, Lewis confirmed he signed a free-agent contract with the Colorado Rockies organization. D1Baseball.com and Baseball America first reported the news. Emery signed a minor-league contract with the San Francisco Giants last month.
Undrafted players can sign as free agents for up to a $20,000 bonus this year.
The Razorbacks signed Lewis from Eastern Kentucky and Emery from San Francisco from the NCAA’s transfer portal in May when it appeared Arkansas’ two-year starting catcher Casey Opitz would be drafted and forgo the remainder of his college eligibility. But Opitz was not drafted in June’s five-round MLB draft, which left the Razorbacks with a logjam at the position.
Speaking June 12, one day after the conclusion of the draft, Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said it was likely that at least one of the graduate-transfer catchers would no longer play for his program.
“I hope we keep one of them at least,” Van Horn said, “and if we don’t we’ll have to make another move.”
Lewis batted .451 with 3 home runs, 21 RBI and 15 runs scored in 13 games before the covid-19 pandemic ended his junior season at Eastern Kentucky this year. Collegiate Baseball Newspaper named him an All-American for the season.
After Opitz announced he would return to the Razorbacks’ program last month, Van Horn said Lewis might be used as a backup catcher, infielder or outfielder.
“One reason we wanted A.J. is because he is athletic and he can do other things besides just catch,” Van Horn said.
Catchers Opitz and freshman Cason Tollett are expected to return from Arkansas' 2020 roster. Freshman catcher Dominic Tamez entered the transfer portal in May.
Dylan Leach has said he plans to enroll at Arkansas next month and be eligible next season. Leach was a junior at Carthage (Texas) High School this year, but said he intends to reclassify as a 2020 graduate.
Lewis and Emery were two of four graduate transfers who signed with Arkansas following the conclusion of the 2020 season, along with Houston left-handed pitcher Lael Lockhart and Northern Colorado right-handed pitcher Issac Bracken.
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