Venable on High-A hitting prospects

Max Venable saw some of the best hitters in the system this year. Many of those prospects ended up moving on to Double-A after successful years. We caught up with Venable to discuss Championship aspirations, coaching philosophies, the players that made the biggest strides, as well as many of the names who ended up in San Antonio.

When your team struggled in the final three playoff games, was there anything you could do at that point to get the hitting back on track?

Max Venable: Not really. It is tough because we had played really well all season. We got timely hitting and won the first two games in San Jose and appeared we were in the driver's seat having to win one more game. You really don't have an answer to that and there is not a whole lot that you can do – hopefully the guys can make adjustments as they go, at bat to at bat. You have to give credit to San Jose. They pitched really well those last three games.

I don't know what I could have done differently. We stuck to our routine that we did all year. We had guys coming in and doing soft toss, talked about being ‘loosey goosey', we talked about being selective at the plate – we had some balls that were hit hard but caught, and we couldn't put a string together to come through.

As the hitting guy, everything we did we did all year. We just didn't put together something that could get us a win.

We talk about all the players and how they grow but what about you as a coach? Do your philosophies change? Do you notice anything that puts something in a new perspective?

Max Venable: I think year to year you always come up with something. You analyze the year before and come up with some solution to try and make yourself better for the kids. As long as you see progress in each individual you accomplish what you seek out to do – make guys better. As long as they progress and get better, as a coach, you should be satisfied with their progress – that they learned about baseball, learned how to make adjustments and that is all you can really do. As long as they are making the progress it has been successful.

Was there someone that made more progress than anyone else?

Max Venable: I think as a whole, the guys we had – Cooper made great strides. His thing that he needs to work on is pulling the ball a little more. I think that will be easier for him to adapt to than a guy that is pulling the ball too much and trying to adapt to hit the ball the opposite way.

Blanks had a phenomenal year – 100 RBIs and hit over .300. You look down the line – Freese was consistent all year. There were a lot of good things that happened. You should commend the Padres too for their draft – that says a lot.

Matt Antonelli carved up the Cal League – what did you see out of this young man during the year?

Max Venable: I think his presence – plate presence. His toughness – the guy was a bulldog. He never gave in at all. Matter of fact, I used his as an example one day: Rancho Cucamonga – this kid struck out four times. I am not sure if they were swinging or taking. But he did not put his head down once.

There were some guys who would come back to the dugout after making an out and had their head down. ‘Now here is a guy, Matt Antonelli, that struck out four times and the kid did not pout.' I thought that was impressive.

The guy is a battler. He never gives in. He has a nice, short stroke and is very competitive. He was a tough kid.

Chad Huffman seemed to come through big for you guys before his promotion. He seemed to come through in the clutch for you?

Max Venable: He strives off RBIs. With guys in scoring position it makes him that much better of a player. He really seemed to find a little extra or something. He was always killing it. He performed well in those situations.

Sean Kazmar struggled in Double-A but found himself back with you. What changed?

Max Venable: I think after talking to him a little bit it was a little bit more mental issues and maybe not so much mechanical. When Kaz came down I saw he was not really Kaz. I had him the year before and he was always a guy that had a lot of energy and showed it on the field. He wasn't showing that.

He wasn't playing that well in San Antonio. I talked to him and said, ‘You have to salvage what is left of this year.' I noticed his attitude wasn't that great. He was kind of down. I told him, ‘You have to change your attitude.' We talked about that and it went from there. He showed himself to prove he belongs – showed he was not giving up and showed he still has the ability to play like Kaz knows how. He ended up playing quite well.

He did a great job at shortstop.

Nic Crosta had a down year and was obviously affected by his medical condition. How can you get him back on track?

Max Venable: He needs to see a doctor so the problem doesn't occur again. On the field, it is tough to put up good numbers. Number one he needs to seek nutrition help.

He has talent as far as baseball skills. He has good bat speed and some power. It is up to Nic and the Padres to seek help for Nic nutritionally. Once he gets that taken care of he can concentrate on getting better on the field.

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