The term “Undrafted Free Agent” (UDFA) used to carry with it very little in terms of expectations. When the MLB Draft had 50 rounds, any undrafted free agents left were usually fliers that teams would take on a guy who was either really fast, really strong, or could throw the ball really hard without any extra carrying tools. However, in 2020 nothing can be normal, not even the MLB Draft.
There were only five rounds in this past June’s amateur draft. When you consider the signing bonus games that teams like to play, there was bound to be a handful of players that did not get their name called that teams would be bidding heavily for. Kale Emshoff may have very well been at the top of that list.
Kale Emshoff is a 22-year old catcher from the Corpus Christi (TX) area that played his college ball at Arkansas Little Rock. He hit .253 with 4 HR across 95 games in his first two seasons at Little Rock, and then had to have Tommy John Surgery before his junior year began. As a RS Junior this past spring, Emshoff exploded onto the scene by hitting .417 with 7 HR in his team’s first 17 games. Heading into the June draft, MLB Pipeline listed Emsoff as the 146th best prospect in the entire draft. For the mathmagicians at home, that’s about a 4th round talent.
Much was made this spring about the Royals deciding not to cut a single MiLB player from their payroll during the 2020 non-MiLB season. I even made a point on Jason Anderson’s show “The Zone” on 810 WHB that I thought the Royals decision to keep all of their MiLB players on the payroll even without a season could pay dividends for them with UDFA. Boy did it.
Kale Emshoff was the prize of the UDFA class in 2020. I asked him about his decision to sign with Kansas City and he had this to say about the Royals:
“I chose KC because they have family values and a history of taking care of all players in the organization. Also the scout that recruited me Matt Price was a big reason as well. Developed a great relationship with him and that allowed me to feel comfortable with the organization even more.“
Straight from the horses mouth, “…a history of taking care of all players in the organization.” Kale didn’t get a chance to show off for the Royals front office with the lack of a MiLB season this year, but he did get to take part in camp for a little bit before having to have his hamate bone removed.
“I am apart of fall camp and overall really well as a team standpoint. A lot of guys earned experience in it and got to learn the ropes of professional baseball. I unfortunately had surgery on my left hand due to my hamate bone breaking during batting practice. So I am currently rehabbing through the entire camp and will not be allowed to play.“
This isn’t his first team dealing with an injury. This is what Kale had to say about what he learned the last time he missed time with an injury, during his junior year of college:
“The injury was definitely an eye opening experience for me allowing me to see the game from a different perspective like a coach. Watching the team practice without me and me coaching first base as well allowed me to see things that I didn’t see when I was playing. Example… a player not running hard to first base. Also with all that down time it allowed me to work on my hitting a lot more than anything. Cage work every day and making minor adjustments with my stance and load allowed me to hit/ see the ball better overall.“
Obviously, any catcher that enters the Royals organization is going to quickly be asked about or compared to Salvador Perez. Kale hasn’t had a chance to work with the five-time Gold Glover yet, but had high praises for the Royals backstop:
“I have not been around Salvy yet, but I hope to meet him sometime. He is one of my favorites and I have learned a lot from him ever since he made his debut. He’s taught me to relax and enjoy the game and every moment it brings. And that’s just from the TV.“
Emshoff made his debut on our Royals Farm Report mid-season rankings this summer at #26 on our list. It’s going to take him getting into a professional game to move up much higher, but he has the skill-set to be a top 20 prospect in this system very soon. He’s got a cannon for an arm that has recovered wonderfully from TJS, he’s got great pop in his bat and shows a good understanding of the strike zone. The Royals have a pretty good group of catchers in the system already, but adding Kale Emshoff to the list is certainly a big win for the Royals organization.
Oh, and he says his favorite KC BBQ is either Q39 or Joe’s.