This is the second in a series of position breakdowns and previews for the 2010 Ole Miss baseball season. Brian Walker's Elbow and I will be taking the next week or so to get you informed on the Rebels' chances to getting back to another super regional...I think we're both ruling out Omaha already. colon left parentheses
Today we take a look aRoUNd thE HOrN!!!1! (cue cheesy ESPN bump) Now, this won't be four fat sports journalists arguing whether Mike Tyson's face tattoo is really neat or horrible and scares children.
Instead it will be one, chubby blogger telling you what's happnin' with the Ole Miss infield. Read on, baby.
Head Coach Mike Bianco gave a quick look at what the infield will look like when the Rebels take the field against Louisiana Lafayette on Feb. 19. Here's what we had down:
C: Taylor Hightower, Soph., 5'10'', 205 lbs.; possible back-up is Miles Hamblin
1B: Matt Snyder, Soph., 6'4'', 203 lbs.; Matt Smith could still be back-up or maybe Mike Snyder
2B: Zach Miller, Sr., 5'6'', 189 lbs.; possible back-up is Alex Yarbrough or Tim Ferguson if necessary
SS: Kevin Mort, Sr., 5'9'', 168 lbs.; possible back-up is Alex Yarbrough or Jordan King
3B: Mike Snyder, Soph., 6'5'', 200 lbs.; possible back-up is Frosh Chris Ellis or Jordan King
Last year, the Rebels had an above average infield with Matt Smith gaining experience and surehandedness(not a real word) at 1B, Zach Miller being a baller at 2B, Kevin Mort easing into the SS position fairly well and a carousel of three or four players at 3B.
Now, we have a re-vamped infield, mixing experience with new talent – and TWINS!!!
Mike and Matt Snyder, two large sophomores from Centreville, VA, will play the corners. Matt saw action in almost every game last season and was usually relegated to DH work. He hit close to .300 and tied the team lead in HR with eight. This could be a breakout season for Matt as he should be a little more comfortable at the plate, which should improve batting average and power numbers. Matt only started 32 games at DH, so a full season could reap some serious offensive rewards. I'm projecting a .315 batting average with eight doubles and 14 HR.
Mike Snyder takes over 1B for Matt Smith, a slugger who we previewed earlier this week. Mike played in 11 games last year, mostly against the likes of Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Louisiana School for Amputees, etc. He hit .200 with five RBI. With Smith and his brother in the line-up last year, it was difficult to break into the line-up for Mike. He can play 3B, but I don't think it's his strength. My hope is that there is just a small drop-off at 1B offensively from Smith. Mike's fielding should be more than solid from playing the hot corner. We're projecting Matt at .290 with seven HR.
Zach Miller has been a mainstay in the Ole Miss infield for what seems like a six or seven years. In his redshirt freshman year, he batted .368 and earned Freshman All-American honors. Then he experienced a second year slump by batting .280 but played in every game for the Rebels. Miller locked down 3B for much of the 2009 season even though his short stature had a few worried early on. His batting average boosted to over .340 and went 8-for-12 in steals. He's now played in more than 160 games for Ole Miss. He absolutely could have left last year, but he came back, hopefully to get this team back to a more successful postseason. I'm projecting Miller to be a constant for our offense and hit around .340 again with four or five dingers.
Kevin Mort received some hate from us early last year. We weren't impressed early with his bat or his glove. Mort was touted as a fantastic fielding SS, and he proved his consistency as the season dragged on. Mort played in 63 games and only had seven errors and 17 K's in nearly 250 plate appearances. He hit .286 and was named team MVP and defensive MVP. Mort is a senior this year and is going to be looked to for leadership. If he can bump up his batting average and continue to play some great fundamental baseball, he'll compile a nice following of Rebel seamheads this year. We expect him to bat close to .300 and turn in another single digit error season.
Taylor Hightower will be behind the dish in 2010. He's one of the most highly touted prospects Bianco has brought to Ole Miss. He's also a pretty smart kid from what I understand. The Cartersville, GA native played in 14 games last year and bat .476 mostly in non-conference action. Hightower has power and a cannon for an arm. He showed off his ability more than a few times especially if you watched him in the pre-game warm-ups. He brings more athleticism to the position compared to Kyle Henson or Brett Basham. He'll hit over .300 with eight roundtrippers.
There's a few back-ups proposed at the top of the post. Alex Yarbrough is probably one of the best players who will not consistently start from the get-go. He's got a great bat, and should be able to step in anywhere in the middle INF.