Let me get one thing straight- I have a major league mancrush on Drew Stubbs. It happens. Like my infatuation with Dexter Fowler or Dave’s fascination with Jerome Williams, it’s just a bit of guy love between two guys… (count it, Scrubsreference). Stubbs came up a nifty prospect, nothing to break down doors about, but thought to be a useful guy. He produced 8 homers and 10 steals in only 196 plate appearances in his call up in 2009 before becoming a late round GEM in 2010, banging out 22 homers and stealing 30 bases in 584 PA. A legitimate 30-30 threat, Stubbs was grabbed in many a later round draft time in 2010. So in looking forward to 2011, I’m investigating what guys you’ve probably heard of, be it a semi-touted prospect, a down-on-his-luck flameout (still holding a candle for Alex Gordon, anyone?), or a player who has produced in a small sample are capable of producing in multiple categories for very little cash (in auctions) or may not be drafted (in other formats). That sentence could probably use a good edit but alas, I am lazy. The point is, here is a guy who will, like Stubbs, provide a cheap power/speed combo in 2011:
See what I mean about good names in baseball? Will Venable has a good one. He is also exactly the type of player I am lookig for when I say I am looking for the next breakout like Drew Stubbs. Once again, Bill James sells him very short in his projections, but more on that later. I, on the other hand, believed in Venable last year, though he got hurt, and will be looking forward to his 2011 season, as I think he will put it all together.
Let us begin at the beginning (well, the convenient beginning)- 2007. In 2007, in AA, Venable stole 21 bases. This is most excellent for a big dude (he’s 6’2” 210). he also had a full year, with 572 PA, knocking 8 homers, 3 triples, and 19 doubles (19.07 PA/XBH). That rate could be better, but for the time being move on if you can and focus on the 21 steals, thanks.
In 2008, Venable moved up to AAA (with a cup of coffee for the Padres later). In the minors, Venable had 496 PA, hitting 26 doubles, 4 triples, and 14 homers (11.27 PA/XBH). He stole only 8 bases. Then, in his cup o’ joe with the parent club, Will the Thrill had only 28 games and played sparingly, posting similar PA/XBH numbers to 2007.
We arrive in 2009 when Venable gets really interesting. In AAA once again, the slugger hit 10 doubles, 3 triples, and 12 homers… in 226 PA. That’s good for an outstanding one extra base hit every 9.04 PA! He stole only one base. Then came the call to the big club. With the fathers, Venable collected 324 PA, smacking 14 doubles, 2 triples, and 12 homers (he stole 6 bases). That’s good for 11.57 PA/XBH an excellent number for basically a rookie and on-par with the Stubbsian line I’ve drawn.
On came 2010, a very promising year for Venable. And on the whole, he didn’t fare too badly. In 445 PA, he stole a whopping 29 bases, proving 2007 was not a fluke, and placing him in the suddenly-very-interesting-power/speed guy realm. He hit 11 doubles, 7, I repeat SEVEN triples, and 13 homers to go along with those 29 steals, good for a rate of 14.35 PA/XBH, right around the magic number.
Looking forward to 2011, I obviously turned to the guru, Bill James. He, however, only projects Venable for 353 PA, far short of what I envision for the guy given San Diego’s need for some thump and 1B/OF play. In that brief sample, however, James sees Venable maintaining his rate, projecting 12 doubles, 3 triples, and 10 homers, good for a rate of 14.12 PA/XBH. This is to go along with 16 stolen bases. If Venable can get his K:BB rate a little better and maintain a .320-ish BABIP, he should have no problem posting similar rates, hitting in the .260 range with lots of extra base hits. The steals should come as well, even in James small sampling, he has the hefty Venable swiping 16 bags, so extrapolate that over many more AB and it is not crazy to think Venable can steal 25-30 bases given regular AB. With 25-30 doubles, 5-10 triples, and 15-20 homers, doesn’t Venable sound like a West Coast version of Stubby ? Sure sounds similar to me.