Name: Will Venable
DOB: October 29, 1982
Since being drafted in the seventh-round of the 2005 draft out of Princeton, the Padres have challenged the outfielder. Each time, he has risen to the occasion.
"You have to remember that you are dealing with a very good athlete that has tremendous aptitude and who really wants this, and when you put those all together, you have something pretty special," Padres vice president of scouting and player development Grady Fuson said. "When you are not around players everyday, it's hard to appreciate just how special this is. We are really happy at what he's done and how he performed for us on the big club."
Splitting the 2005 season between the Arizona Rookie League and Eugene, Venable hit .247 with 16 extra base hits in 57 games.
The 26-year-old came from a basketball background and was a novice to the world of baseball. His acumen and ability to learn quickly had the Padres moving him quickly. He moved up to Fort Wayne in 2006 and responded by hitting .314 with 50 extra base hits, 91 RBI and 86 runs scored across 124 games. He also stole 18 bases in 23 attempts.
A year later, Venable skipped over the California League and was thrust into the San Antonio lineup. He hit .278 with the Missions while notching 30 extra base hits, driving in 68 and scoring 66 runs. He also upped his stolen base percentage by swiping 21 in 23 attempts.
The 2008 season saw the left-handed hitter in Portland for much of the season. Asked to hit for more power, Venable had a career-high 14 homers while clubbing 44 extra base hits across 120 games with the Beavers. He hit .292 overall with a .361 on-base percentage.
Venable hit over .300 in each of the first three months of the year before scuffling some down the stretch, hitting .277 and .259 in July and August, respectively.
While his walk totals increased from the previous year, Venable also set a career high with 103 strikeouts. His stolen bases also dipped, as he was successful in 7-of-10 attempts.
"He's just a little bit inconsistent with his approach, but the foundation is there, the athleticism, aptitude, everything we've talked about with William over the years, it still applies to today," Portland manager Randy Ready said.
He was called up to San Diego in September and played 28 games for the Friars. Venable hit .264 with eight extra base hits while drawing 13 walks compared to 21 strikeouts.
A career .288 minor league hitter, Venable has shown he can make adjustments and handle the mental adversity that goes with playing baseball.
Venable has made steady strides in each season since being drafted. Whether it was hitting for a higher average, seeing more pitches, playing sound defensively, or upping his power numbers, the outfielder has shown he can respond in a positive fashion.
The California native has been praised for his aptitude in not only learning the game but also putting what he has been taught into application. It helps that he is a very good athlete.
"It's just a matter of him staying consistent with it, trusting his hands, and getting the count in his favor, obviously, and he's going to do some damage," Ready said.
Power was one of the adjustments the Padres wanted to see in his game. With a good foundation and solid hitting mechanics, San Diego was confident he could make strides in this area. Venable did just that but also sacrificed his average with some max-effort swings that produced inconsistencies.
"I don't think it took anything away," Portland hitting coach Max Venable, who is Will's father, said. "I don't really consider William as a power hitter. I figure with William, he's got good size. Of course, he's capable of hitting some balls."
A high average type hitter that keeps his bat in the hitting zone for prolonged periods, he added a bit of loft to his swing. It left him missing some balls he normally hits and produced a lot of at-bats where he was hitting from behind.
With the count no longer in his favor, Venable would expand his own zone and chase. A tad uncomfortable with his new role, Venable has continued to work on gaining a consistent approach.
"Once he really learns the strike zone and know what he can hit the best, I think it's just going to take a little time for him to mature to the game a little bit," Max Venable said. "Once he realizes to learn to be patient, he's going to increase his power. I think William has gotten a little bit better at that and is improving.
"Once he just stays on that track there, I think that his power numbers should go up. I think he's going to hit for average because he can run and he puts the ball in play, so I think he should be able to hit for average."
He is a slightly above average runner that uses his innate knowledge of the game to read a pitcher's move home and get a good jump. Solid fundamentals across the board enhance his ability to take healthy leads and have a high success rate.
Venable has become a solid defensive player that can man center field. It wasn't always this way but his athleticism and understanding of positioning has assisted in making him more than capable. Venable doesn't always have the best routes to the ball and his arm is average, but he is able to track down balls in the gaps and plays well coming in on the ball.
"He's so athletic and he likes playing out there," Ready said. "He can see the whole field, and he has great closing speed. He runs good routes, and he was getting to everything. The thing with Will is he just answers the bell with whatever challenge we put in front of him."
Conclusion: Venable is continually improving and still has a ways to go. Considering where he came from to where he is now, Venable is vastly improved. If the path of success begins anew each season, the outfielder could become an every day player. He has the aptitude to make it happen and each year seems to grow more and more comfortable.
Power is still the biggest question mark in his game. He will likely be able to maintain a solid average but needs to do more damage – especially as an outfielder and more so if he moves to the corner spots. His approach must stay consistent, and he has to find more favorable counts to hit in to truly be effective.
Talk about this story on our subscriber-only message boards