baseball Edit

Arkansas loses 2nd grad transfer catcher to MLB

A.J. Lewis was named an All-American after putting up huge numbers in the shortened 2020 season.
A.J. Lewis was named an All-American after putting up huge numbers in the shortened 2020 season. (Eastern Kentucky Athletics)

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Arkansas has lost a second graduate transfer catcher to the professional ranks, according to multiple reports.

A.J. Lewis, who put up huge numbers at Eastern Kentucky during the shortened 2020 season, previously announced he’d play his final collegiate season with the Razorbacks, but has since decided to sign with the Colorado Rockies as an undrafted free agent.

It is similar to the path taken by San Francisco catcher Robert Emery last month. He signed with the San Francisco Giants shortly after Casey Opitz went undrafted and announced he’d return to Arkansas in 2021.

That was expected from Emery, as head coach Dave Van Horn told reporters that he figured one of the two graduate transfers would move on.

Lewis’ decision was a bit more of a surprise. He told HawgBeat that he expected to report to Fayetteville in time for voluntary workouts, which were scheduled to begin July 6 for baseball.

Even though Opitz will likely handle the bulk of the catching, he figured to get plenty of work behind the plate because the grind of the position typically calls for at least two catchers.

What made him an even better fit for the Razorbacks was that he was versatile enough to play first base, third base and both corner outfield spots. Lewis’ bat - which produced a .451/.541/.843 slash line with three home runs and 21 RBIs in 13 games this season - was expected to keep him in the lineup even when Opitz was catching.

His departure leaves the Razorbacks with three catchers for next season. In addition to Opitz, Arkansas also returns Cason Tollett and will bring in Dylan Leach.

Tollett is a Little Rock Christian product who was limited to only one at bat during his freshman season because of an arm injury. He is playing in the South Florida Collegiate Baseball League this summer and got off to a slow start, but has hit .370 since July 3 and was chosen for the league’s all-star game.

Leach was originally one of three catchers committed in Arkansas’ 2021 recruiting class, but he announced in April that he would skip his senior season in Carthage, Texas, to join the team a year early.

Van Horn also still has time to add a catcher before the scheduled start of the 2020 fall semester.