Will Venable is doing Will Venable things

Who is Will Venable?

We know about his hairline. We know he went to Princeton. We know about his dad, former major leaguer Max Venable. We’ve seen Will’s highlights. We’ve suffered through his lowlights. But really, what kind of player is he?

2009: .256/.323/.440 with 12 home runs and a 108 wRC+ in 324 PA’s
2010: .245/.324/.408 with 13 home runs and a 101 wRC+ in 445 PA’s
2011: .246/.310/.395 with 9 home runs and a 99 wRC+ in 411 PA’s
2012: .264/.335/.429 with 9 home runs and a 115 wRC+ in 470 PA’s
2013: .266/.308/.494 with 17 home runs and a 122 wRC+ in 364 PA’s

Those are Venable’s stats in his 5 mostly full seasons with the Padres. So what is real and what isn’t?  

Is the player with the 15 game hitting streak the real Will Venable? Is the player who hits walk off home runs the real Will Venable? Is Will Venable 2013 the new Chase Headley 2012? Everyone is talking about it.

Will Venable has long been considered a frustrating player amongst Padres fans and bloggers. It’s understandable. He strikes out a lot, almost 24% of his plate appearances over his career. He doesn’t get on base nearly enough for a player with his skill set, with just a .321 career OBP. He’s actually drawing fewer walks this year than ever before in his career, with just a 5.5% walk rate against a career rate of 8.2%. He’s streaky, and when he’s bad he can be really hard to watch.

Right now he’s on what might be the hottest streak of his career (I can’t say for sure, I didn’t do that much research). In his past 15 games, he’s hitting .377 with 4 home runs, 4 doubles, 2 triples, and 5 stolen bases. His OPS over this streak is 1.139. His wRC+ is 217. He’s playing really well.

Of course, this is just a streak and should be treated like one. But the fact is that full seasons can be made up of a series of steaks, or in Venable’s case, whole careers. So what’s going to happen to Venable next?

I have no idea. And I’m done making bold predictions. But there are several things that could happen:

  • This could be Venable’s version of Chase Headley in 2012, and it could last through the end of the season. He could hit 13 more home runs and end up with 30 on the season. If he decides to steal a bunch of bases as well, he could have a shot at a 30/30 season. That part is highly unlikely, but a 20/20 year is in reach.
  • The streak could end tomorrow, and a slump could replace it. It’s not that unlikely really.
  • His numbers could level off soon and he could end up with numbers very similar to the ones he posted in 2012, but with more home runs. In this scenario, he could still end up with a 20/20 season.

If the third scenario, in my opinion the most likely, takes place, isn’t that good enough? Not every player has all-star potential. Venable was never really that guy in the first place, focusing on baseball so late in his youth. He’s a solid defender who can play any outfield position and can make really tough plays look easy. He has good speed and a decent bat, with 20 home run potential and 20+ stolen base potential. That’s a good player, especially playing in the somewhat limited role he’s played in his entire career.

This streak may be exactly what people have always been waiting for from Venable. Unfortunately, it’s not likely to last. But that’s okay. Fans get too caught up in the idea of players reaching what is perceived to be their full potential. They see flashes of stardom and then when it doesn’t happen they get disappointed. We all do it. The fact is that hardly any players reach their perceived full potential. That doesn’t make them disappointments. These are oftentimes major leaguers with long careers. They are successful at their jobs and make millions of dollars.

So who is Will Venable? It depends on what kind of streak he’s on at the moment. Right now he’s on a good run. Maybe we should just appreciate it and not worry about what it means for his career. I don’t want to extrapolate what it means going forward. I just want to enjoy it while it lasts. Let the run speak for itself.

I’m VM Nate filling in for VM David, who is on assignment. Follow me on Twitter. The Vocal Minority Posts on Mondays. I get all my stats at Fangraphs.

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