Henry has a long tradition of baseball accolades and accomplishments, starting in high school, where he was named to three consecutive All-County and All-District teams in Mississippi. In addition, Justin was named 1st Team All-State as a senior at Vicksburg High School, along with 2003 Vicksburg Post Player of the Year, and Vicksburg High's 2003 Athlete of the Year.
Justin red-shirted during his freshman season at the University of Mississippi, and went on to play with Thomasville of the Coastal Plains League following his first year on campus. He was named a CPL All-Star while posting a .335 average and 13 steals in 49 games. During his sophomore season at ‘Ole Miss' Henry saw action in 57 games, posting a .374/.412/.488 line and was named to the SEC All-Tournament team. Despite a dip in his numbers as a junior, Henry was again named to the conference All-Tournament team, and finished the season with a solid .332 average at the plate.
During his fourth year on campus, Justin turned in his best season as a collegian. While leading a strong Runnin' Rebels squad, Henry posted a .381 average backed by fourteen doubles, eight triples, and 22 steals. The Tigers selected him in the ninth round of the 2007 draft and quickly assigned him to Oneonta of the New York-Penn League.
In his debut campaign as a professional, Henry was the second toughest player in the circuit to strike out, fanning only once every 13.45 plate appearances. In addition, Justin ranked fourth in the league in runs (49), second in the league in hits (85), third in batting average (.340), and eighth in on-base percentage (.417); while appearing in 67 games for the O-Tigers.
Henry comes from an athletic family (his brother is a strong outfield prospect at Mississippi), and he has displayed a knack for spots, lettering in baseball, football, basketball, and tennis during his high school career. He is a heady player with great instincts and a very good understanding of all phases of the game.
Justin has above-average speed with the instincts to 15-20 bases annually. He routinely hits the ball on the ground; legging out hits and making defenses work to get him out. He has some gap power, but he does not project to drive the ball for extra bases much as a pro. He should notch some doubles and triples, but is unlikely to post inspiring slugging averages. Henry has a good understanding of the strike zone and has shown a willingness to work counts and look for a pitch he can square up solidly.
He is a little stiff and mechanical defensively, limiting his range, despite his speed. His instincts and ability to properly position himself allows him to make up for his lack of range, and his hands are soft with a quick transfer to the throw. He uses good footwork, a quick release, and an average arm to get the ball over to first base. Justin is still working on his timing and footwork for double-plays, but that should come with additional experience at the keystone, rather than at shortstop where he played during college.
Henry profiles as more of a solid utility player with the ability to make contact and get on base while holding his own defensively. He has an advanced feel for the game, which should allow him to move quickly through the system if opportunities present themselves.
Performance Level Team AB AVG 2B HR RBI SO BB OBP% SLG% A
Henry has been largely healthy throughout his baseball career, working through minor injuries with ease. His strong work ethic allows him to remain in excellent physical condition and avoid chronic maladies.
Henry was logically pushed to West Michigan for his first full-season assignment in 2008, and he should be expected to hit for average and draw some walks while hitting near the top of the order for Joe DePastino's club. With Scott Sizemore ahead of him at Lakeland, opportunities for a mid-season promotion are unlikely.
Henry's ability to lead and his maturity on the field should work well with a rookie manager and a relatively young and inexperienced team on the field with him. He could be one of the anchors of this Whitecaps team as they drive for a third consecutive Midwest League title.
Mark Anderson is TigsTown's Managing Editor and feature Minor League writer. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.