Tigers Prospect Profile #28: Justin Henry

Justin Henry established himself as one of the few constants for the Whitecaps in 2008, a solid presence with a reliable bat and gap power. Will Henry continue to produce at that level?

Justin Henry
Position: Second Baseman
Height: 6-2
Weight: 185
Born: 4/30/1985
Bats: Left
Throws: Right

Background
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.

As expected, the Tigers moved Henry up to West Michigan for his first taste of full-season ball, and after struggling through the first two months of the season, Justin turned in on in June. Through the season's final three months he took home two TigsTown monthly honors on the back of a .327/.370/.399 line in that 74-game span. After finishing the season ranked ninth in the Midwest League in runs, seventh in hits, and sixth in batting average, he also took home TigsTown's West Michigan Player of the Year honor.

Scouting Report
Henry comes from an athletic family (his brother is a strong outfield prospect at Mississippi), and he has displayed a knack for sports, 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; a trend that continued over the course of the long season in Grand Rapids.

He is a little stiff and mechanical defensively, limiting his range, despite his speed. His instincts and ability to properly position allow 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. After struggling a bit to get the knack of proper footwork for double-plays from the second base side, Henry showed excellent improvement in that area in 2008, and proved he could become an above-average defender at the position.

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

West Mich.

475

.295

24

1

46

36

44

.356

.360


Health Record
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.

The Future
Justin should hold down the keystone at Lakeland in 2009, with the possibility of Audy Ciriaco once again flanking him on the left side of the infield. There is a long line of second base prospects above Henry in the system, and he will have to have a couple of big seasons to really stand out from the crowd. In the end, he's probably more of a utility type, with enough chops to play the outfield and both middle infield positions if necessary. With Scott Sizemore, Will Rhymes, and Michael Hollimon all vying for the chance to take over for soon-to-be free agent Placido Polanco, Henry may best serve the organization as trade bait to acquire help throughout the season.

Mark Anderson is TigsTown's Managing Editor and feature Minor League writer. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.


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