Vital Stats: MDC Rank: 353, 87th OF, drafted in 14.7% of leagues
72nd ranked OF on ESPN, drafted in 2.5% of leagues
Will Venable offers plenty of speed and a little bit of power as well. He improved his contact rate, raising the ceiling on his batting average. He is under 30 with 1304 plate appearances in his major league career, still in his prime and young enough to improve his skills. A part time player in the past, he has a clear hold on the Padres’ right field job. The competition between Yonder Alonso and Jesus Guzman has little bearing as neither appears equipped to advance up the defensive spectrum to RF.
Stack up Venable’s career numbers and they look awfully similar to those of Drew Stubbs. Stubbs of course is drafted far higher, the 23rd OF and 80th player overall on MDC. The figures are similar enough that Venable should be considered far ahead of his current position.
There are of course differences. Most importantly Stubbs plays in an environment far more conducive to scoring runs. The Reds outscored the Padres by 142 in 2011. It is easier to reach the seats in Cincinnati so Stubbs hits more home runs as well. Secondly, Venable has logged between 400 and 450 PA each of the last two years. Most of his missed time was due to a back problem, which cannot be dismissed. Still, how deep does the discount need to be?
In 2009 and 2010 Venable had exceedingly high strikeout rates (27.5% and 28.8%). This should worry any fantasy player, but last year he improved to 22.4%. Evidence suggests this was no random variation, but legitimate improvement. His overall contact rate went up 3.1% while his O-Contact jumped a full 10.0%. His swinging strike rate decreased from 12.6% to 11.7%. Venable still has plenty of swing and miss is his bat, and the average is a risk, but his improvements remove the worst of his downside and make him an asset in any league. Given 500 to 550 PA a 15 HR / 35 SB season is very possible.
Draft Venable over his new teammate Carlos Quentin (MDC Rank 209), Mike Trout (216), Dexter Fowler (230), Nyjer Morgan (241), Chris Heisey (248), or Allen Craig (276).
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