Brett Basham handled the majority of the catching duties before Alex Kliman took over the role late in the season. Basham was plagued most of the year with a fractured thumb on his glove hand. The injury had minimal effect on his throwing and receiving, but Basham's offense became stagnant as soon as the thumb was impaired. Kliman's ability to get on base swung the job to him permanently during the last weekend of the regular season at Arkansas. The junior hit .321 and had just four fewer total bases than Basham in almost half the at-bats. Basham batted only .206 and that was after beginning the season on fire. Kliman struggled behind the dish, throwing out just two runners in 25 opportunities. Basham gunned down 16 of 53. After the year, Kliman quit the team to concentrate on academics.
Heralded newcomer Kyle Henson enters the fold behind the plate after a successful JUCO career at San Jacinto Community College. While there, Henson competed in two College World Series and was named All-Conference after each season. He hit .315 with four home runs and 23 RBI as a sophomore. Henson is a complete catcher but has more current potential on the offensive end. He runs well for his position and puts the ball in play with gap-to-longball power. He is agile enough to move side to side defensively, but his consistency in blocking is currently a negative. That could be the result of experience, as he is only a few months into his Division I baseball career. Henson has a slightly more than average arm, but that isn't a highlight since his competition has arguably the most powerful arm on the roster. Like Kliman last year, his best case is to light it up with the bat where Bianco has to find somewhere for him. Henson will play and have the chance to breakthrough with steady contributions, but it appears he is currently trailing for the starting role.
Basham ended last season with his confidence at an all-time low thanks to the injury that ultimately killed his batting average and partly cost him his job during the postseason. The thumb fully healed during the SEC Tournament, and Basham thrived in the Cape Cod League over the summer. He appeared a lot more comfortable and confident during fall practice and has continued that demeanor into the spring. Basham is hands-down the best defensive and throwing catcher on the team, so his offense is the variable. Basham needs to concentrate on quality at-bats and put the ball in play. He has shown the tendency to be quite streaky at the plate, thus the key part will be to manage some productivity during the down times. Even mediocre offense makes him the leader because of Bianco's desire to have the best defensive player on the field. His experience and knowledge in handling the pitching staff is the intangible that sets Basham apart.
Ole Miss plays five games most weeks and has two quality catchers to manage the brunt of the shortened season. Basham is the favorite to start and handle most crucial games, but Henson will have a chance for substantial playing time because of his offensive capability. The Rebels have a nice one-two punch at an important position with a couple of guys that would start at most schools.
Position Preview: Catcher
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