Who will provide offense in 2009?

The 2009 season may be months away, but it is never too early to project an Opening Day batting order. Who will take the field is anyone's guess, but here is one writer's opinion. It may be right. It may be wrong. But either way, it is a topic to discuss during the offseason.

Today's article will feature who I expect to hit on Opening Day. The pitching staff will be the focus tomorrow.

C: Brett Basham

The rising senior turned down the White Sox and will remain in Oxford for one more season. There is some depth at the position with Kyle Henson on track to recover from injury and highly touted newcomer Taylor Hightower also on the roster, but Basham will be the top backstop. After starting every game in 2008, the Knoxville, Tenn., native should get some rest next season and be able to keep a consistent batting average throughout the year. Fatigue set in during the latter part of this past season, but with Hightower and Henson able to contribute, the catching position is in good hands. Basham's experience will be vital with several new faces on the pitching staff. Look for Hightower to gain the next most innings, as he prepares to take over in his sophomore campaign.

1B: Matt Smith

Setting the school's freshman home run record will earn a starting nod, but Smith has some things to work on before 2009. His 80 strikeouts last season were five away from the most in NCAA history, and the Ga., product will need to up his quality at-bat ability as his career progresses. Smith's capability to change the game with one swing lands him an ideal candidate for the clean-up position if the strikeout numbers dwindle. Thanks to a year of experience and an offseason to further heal his elbow, Smith should be a force offensively. Also, the rising sophomore was steady defensively except for bunt coverages, and that is another area that time should improve.

2B: Tim Ferguson

Playing shortstop as a true freshman was an adventure for Ferguson last season, but the other side of the middle infield should provide a comfortable position for the Texas native to excel. Ferguson adapted to SEC pitching throughout the year and came up with some big at-bats including the walkoff home run to beat Auburn and two triples during the SEC Tournament. With more than adequate speed and the ability to provide offense, Ferguson should continue to be an everyday player in 2009.

3B: Logan Williams

It could be argued that Williams wasted a year of eligibility after taking off his redshirt more than midway through the season. However, the freshman proved that he could make solid contact against SEC arms and also stand up to big moments. Williams can be a complete hitter, and his defense got better in the spring. The Arkansas native's glove work was unspectacular in the fall, but he performed well in limited action during the season. It will be difficult to replace Cody Overbeck, but Williams should get first shot at being a multi-year starter at third base.

SS: Evan Button

After being sidelined with a stress fracture during the Mississippi State series, Button's only mention came in the form of a question – when would he be back? Well, the rising senior should be back in 2009. The shortstop is staying in Oxford this summer to continue healing, and a full recovery is expected soon. With the struggles at short this past year, Button remains the frontrunner to take the position he has been slated for since arriving three years ago. He was inconsistent prior to shutting down for the season, but how much of that was due to injury is unknown. Button is an above average athlete that should be able to provide continuity to the shortstop slot. Also, with Fuller Smith having moved on, Button's toughness and fire will be important next season.

LF: David Phillips

The JUCO transfer still has the option to sign a professional contract, but I am going to take the liberty and guess that Phillips will be in Oxford in August. The Texarkana product led his conference in home runs last year and hit over .350 both seasons. Phillips is a versatile player that appears to be best suited in the outfield. That is also where the most obvious spot is open. If Phillips can adjust to a higher level of pitching quickly, he could establish himself as the third outfielder during the fall.

CF: Logan Power

With Michael Guerrero playing professionally, it is very possible that Power will move back to center, where he spent the 2007 season. The return of the most complete player on the Rebels' roster provides a monumental upgrade to Ole Miss' lineup. While nothing technically changed, the thought was that Power would be headed to the next level. It is gift in a way. Expect for seasoned veteran to be at home in the three hole and be expected to anchor next year's batting order.

RF: Jordan Henry

This past season was an interesting one for Henry, but the former SEC Freshman of the Year rebounded and was his old self during the latter portion of 208. With his ability to change a game with speed and aggressiveness, the leadoff spot will be his for the third straight season. Henry could move over to center, but with Power back, there isn't a reason to fix what's not broke.

DH: Matt Snyder

One of the incoming recruits that is exciting the Rebel fan base, Snyder has a baseball pedigree and just finished breaking the Virginia state home run record. Matt's brother Mike is also a decorated signee for 2009, and their brother Brandon is a former first round draft pick. Matt was rated as one of the top 75 seniors by Baseball America and could be the freshman that makes the quickest impact next season. Fall ball will be vital to adjusting to college and finding a comfort zone in the new environment.

OM Spirit Top Stories