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Basham a high draft pick?
Johnny Bench Award finalist, BHS alumnus, hot item as UM catcher

The thumb is healed, the batting average has soared and the catching has gone from very good to excellent.

Brett Basham, Mr. Durability at Ole Miss and a Johnny Bench Award finalist as one of College Baseball top 45 catchers, could be within the high-round draft radar of several Major League Baseball organizations.

“Anywhere from round five to 10 is reasonable, so I thought that offer would be enough to start a professional career,” said the former Bearden High School standout and Rebel junior who leads SEC catchers in percentage of runners thrown out, having nailed 21 in 52 attempts (50 games).

“But anything that’s [worse] than that I’ll probably lean toward returning to school because I’ve got a pretty good situation here,” added Basham, who hit .295 in his first 50 games with 2 home runs, 28 RBIs. “If it’s not right, then there’s no reason not to come back for my senior year.”

Basham, 21, and a handful of Ole Miss prospect met with scouting directors of 12 Major League teams Sunday, April 27, in one-on-one sessions where, based on personal observations and film work, scouts evaluated each players’ pro potential.

Those scouts were with the Tigers, Rockies, Indians, Dodgers, Twins, Astros, Diamondbacks, Padres, Phillies, White Sox, Cubs and Rays organizations.

“The biggest complement was I was among the elite catchers in college baseball,” Basham said, “As far as my defensive ability it’s [rated] second-to-none as far as my throwing ability and my receiving, blocking balls, handling a pitching staff was [rated] among the best in the country.

“I really felt confident about my meeting with the Cubs,” he added. “The White Sox, I felt pretty comfortable with. A lot of teams I really felt comfortable with, came out of the meetings really positive about the draft. … I had a good rapport with all [12] teams.”

The scouts acknowledged Basham “struggled last year” with the bat [.207], but that in 2008 “I was making vast improvement.”

Batting a solid .325 in SEC play, Basham had a special day with the stick against Arkansas during a Saturday, April 26, doubleheader in Oxford by going 6-of-9.

“I guess the biggest negative you could say was that they don’t know how durable I can be as far as playing 162 games,” the 6-foot-2, 200-pounder said. “I can always work on that. I can get stronger. It’s not talent level. I’m not the biggest guy, not a big, physical guy like you see in the big leagues, so I have to work on getting a lot stronger, a lot more durable and I think that’s going to help me in the scouts’ eyes.”

That’s despite having started all 50 Ole Miss games behind the plate this season (Rebels 31-19 overall, 12-12 in SEC play).

Mike Bianco, Ole Miss head coach, said Basham “is having a tremendous year for us. Defensively, probably the best defensive catcher in the Southeastern Conference. The way he handles the pitchers. …

“The confidence the pitchers have in the catcher to do his job. Being able to deliver a breaking ball and throw it freely without worrying about throwing it in the dirt and it getting by the catcher.”

As for clutch hits, “None bigger than the home run in the bottom of the eighth to beat L-S-U,” Bianco said of Basham’s solo blast to break a 1-1 tie April 11 as Ole Miss won 2-1. “For batting in the nine hole he’s got a lot of R-B-Is.”

Bruce Basham, Brett’s father, was a four-year starting catcher at Tennessee (1977-80). “A lot of people forget that last year Brett played most of the year with a broken thumb on his throwing hand, he broke it early in March,” Bruce said. “It got to be to the point where it started affecting both his offense and defense.

“He’s had an excellent year, both with the bat and defensively.”


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