Position Preview: Outfield

Logan Power, Michael Hubbard and Jordan Henry are the three outfield starters on Opening Day. Go inside to see who else will push those three this season.

Last Season

Logan Power and Jordan Henry played the entire season in center field and right field respectively, while Justin Henry received the bulk of the starts in left after moving from second base. Fuller Smith was the early season leftfielder and started a combined 30 games in LF and DH. Justin Henry led the team with a .381 average, and brother Jordan hit .376 on his way to SEC Freshman of the Year honors. Power batted .292 and hit 11 home runs. Justin Henry and Power were the only two players to start all 65 games.

Contenders

Smith started a year ago in left field on Opening Day, but he will be a player off the bench this Friday. The co-captain has been impressive this spring with an abundance of quality at-bats. Smith is an emotional leader for the Rebels and always puts the team first. He is a valuable left-handed bat for late-game substitution purposes and could also figure in at designated hitter on occasion. Smith is one of three seniors and seems determined to make sure the Rebels do the "little things right." That has been a point of emphasis after the past few late-season setbacks. Smith has gap power and hustles on every play. The plethora of outfield speed hinders him from pushing for playing time in the field.

Jeremy Travis has been the forgotten man this spring. Out of the six outfielders pushing for consistent playing time, four are starting and the other is team captain. Travis has the wheels to play anywhere in the outfield and has heated up with the bat recently. He should have the opportunity to come off the bench and appears to have good bat control. The junior is further proof of how the outfielders are interchangeable. He has a quality arm and runs with sub-seven speed in the 60. Travis could start for most teams and Ole Miss some years, but it will be a battle to overtake the guys penciled in this weekend. But if someone slumps, he is capable of carrying a starting spot. He may get looks as a pinch-runner and a late-game sub as well.

Michael Guerrero is listed as a contender because he isn't starting Opening Day in one of the three outfield positions, but the talented JUCO transfer should be in center field at some point over the weekend. Guerrero is a true five-tool guy with speed, power and possibly the best arm on the team. He slumped a bit during spring intrasquads but snapped out of it with a home run and a double last Sunday. His instincts are solid, and he could find time in center or right because of his assist capability and athleticism. He is also a good bet to hit in the middle of the lineup. Guerrero is starting at DH Friday.

Leaders

Power shifts over to left after playing the 2007 season in center. Mike Bianco says that Power is a better outfielder this year than last, but the team's depth allows him to put a true centerfielder in all three positions. The junior is known for his solid reads off the bat and has decent speed to go into the gaps. He has a solid arm and is comfortable around the wall. Power's offense demands that he hold down a spot somewhere, as he was second on the team in home runs last season. Power played left field when he was called on during his freshman campaign.

Michael Hubbard, a JUCO product from Arkansas Fort-Smith, will get the start in center Friday thanks to his speed in the field and on the bases. Matt Mossberg commented that Hubbard has similar instincts to Power and a faster 60 time. The middle outfield spot could be a revolving door between Hubbard and Guerrero, with the other player garnering most of the starts at DH. Offensively, a decent guess would be that Hubbard hits ninth to jumpstart the top of the order. He can bunt and has solid bat control for situational hitting. His sneaky power also gives the possibility of him hitting in the two hole.

Jordan Henry spent the majority of the spring practice season in center, but he will be back in right on Opening Day. His ridiculous speed gives the option to play anywhere, but it may be a case where his instincts are still evolving. Last season was the first time for Henry to ever play outfield after being an infielder in high school. Mossberg said his speed allows him to get away with things and is still learning and getting better. Hitting coach Rob Reinstetle confirmed that Henry would bat leadoff this weekend. The sophomore spent the offseason working on pitch selection and fine-tuning the balance between being aggressive and exercising patience at the leadoff spot. Henry suffered from shin problems late last season, so you may see an even better player in 2008.

Note: David Kindred has played well this spring after missing months with a wrist injury. The redshirt freshman can hit for power but must improve his consistency before challenging the above players.

Summary

Speed and versatility are the two characteristics most often associated with the outfield positions. Mossberg calls them the best outfield in the country in terms of offensive and defensive capability. There are five players that would be comfortable in center field, but expect Hubbard and Guerrero to log the most time there. Henry's speed allows him to fight off limited experience and should excel in right. It is an interesting situation because of Guerrero's arm making him the prototypical rightfielder. A good mix of pop will come on offense, and it may be the fastest lineup ever assembled by Bianco. The opportunity to steal bases is available throughout the order.

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