Who are you Will Venable?
Who are you Will Venable?
There is a point for most ball players that happens around the age of 25. This is the point in their careers when they are on the cusp of their “baseball prime” (usually seen as 27-32), and either make the turn into a productive major leaguer or fizzle into a career backup.
Here is where we find William D. Venable.
Venable is the type of player that you would expect to take a little longer to develop. While he comes from a family of athletes – his father spent 12 years in the MLB and his brother is currently playing football for Boise State – he has spent most of his life splitting time between baseball and basketball.
Coming out of high school, Venable decided to attend Princeton University to play basketball and did not get back in to playing baseball until his sophomore year. While he continued to improve in each of his seasons playing baseball at Princeton, Venable refused to give up playing basketball – even passing on signing with the Baltimore Orioles after being drafted in the 15th round of the 2004 MLB Draft.
But after passing on the Orioles, Venable did not disappoint. Upon returning to school, he hit .385/.437/1.073 with nine home runs and ten stolen bases. Venable was named first team All-Ivy in both baseball and basketball. He was only the second player to accomplish this feat with the Padres own Chris Young being the first.
After his senior season, Venable was taken by the Padres in the 7th round of the June 2005 MLB Draft. Since then Venable has seen steady success during his rise through the Padres Organization, being named the 5th ranked prospect for the Padres in 2007 and 7th in 2009 by Baseball America.
Coming into the 2009 season, the Padres right field position was in the hands of Brian Giles. After a surprisingly productive 2008, he seemed ready to continue in that role as a veteran bat and leader. But as we are all familiar with, a legendary 61 game season of .191/.277/.548 happened and Giles lost the job he had succeeded in the previous season.
Venable, who had been seeing consistent playing time throughout the year in AAA, took over the starting right field job after the Padres ridded themselves of Giles after a final 0-11 streak dropped his batting average below the Mendoza line (.200).
Although he himself had struggled with his batting average thus far in 2009, once Venable was given a starting position in the Majors his numbers began to better.
Clearly the breakout stretch for Venable came in the month of August. After finishing July with homeruns in two straight games, he carried the momentum to a .313/.383/.956 line with 6 homers and 17 RBI for the month.
Venable offers a unique blend of natural gifts and athleticism that the Padres do not have anywhere else on their roster. In the field he has a Carlos Beltran-like ability to glide to balls in the outfield. While Venable never appears to be in a hurry, he also never seems to be late to a ball in the gap. Statistically, Venable is amongst the best in the league in the field. His 9.0 UZR (UZR = Arm+DPR+RngR+ErrR) would have ranked fourth in the league among right fielders had he accrued enough playing time.
Offensively, Venable still appears to be a work in progress. While his power numbers have been respectable throughout his pro career, his average and patience are still advancing projects. A 0.28 walk to strikeout ratio will need to be improved along with his strike zone judgment.
Overall it appears that Venable is on track in what should be his make-or-break season. He is all but guaranteed the starting right field job and should fit nicely into the middle of the lineup. Now that his focus in completely on baseball, Padres fans should have a reason to be excited about their All-Ivy Basketball player.