At least one SF Giants prospect is heading to New Zealand to participate in the upcoming Australian Baseball League season this northern hemisphere winter. The Auckland Tuatara have signed Giants catching prospect Robert Emery for this upcoming season, according to a post by the team’s official Twitter account.
A Bay Area native, Emery played college baseball at the University of San Francisco before signing as a nondrafted free agent with the Giants in the summer of 2020. Emery has always been an offensive-minded catcher, posting excellent numbers in college and the minor-league ranks, and will look to carry that success over to a new continent.
Emery made his professional debut in 2021 since the 2020 minor league season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As the backup catcher for the Giants Single-A and High-A affiliates, Emery hit .326/.418/.506 with four doubles, four home runs, 10 walks, and 18 strikeouts in 103 plate appearances.
Emery appeared in two Triple-A games in 2022, but split the rest of the season between High-A and Double-A. In 262 plate appearances, he posted a .236/.363/.380 triple slash with 12 doubles, two triples, and five home runs with 32 walks and 68 strikeouts.
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While Emery is older than most prospects-he turns 26 today (October 22nd)-his offensive productivity over the past two seasons is notable. However, his defensive limitations behind the plate are likely the reason the Giants have relegated him to backup duties despite his offensive production.
In his two professional seasons, Emery has thrown out just five of 39 opposing base stealers (12.8%), which is well below the usual targets for catchers in the 25-30% range. Furthermore, he’s been tagged for nine passed balls in his 33 games behind the plate.
If Emery is limited to first base and designated hitter, he has an uphill battle to reach the major leagues. However, if he becomes a much-improved defensive catcher in Auckland this winter, Emery has the offensive ability to potentially become an MLB backup catcher.
Most baseball fans probably did not realize the Australian Baseball League existed or that there was a team in New Zealand. But SF Giants prospect Robert Emery is heading down under to play for the Auckland Tuataras over the next few months.