Here’s a quick quiz. How many NL West outfielders had a better fantasy season than Will Venable in 2013?
Three. Hunter Pence, Michael Cuddyer, and Carlos Gonzalez. You may have to throw an asterisk in there for Yasiel Puig, who was just below Venable on the ESPN outfield rater despite not making his debut until June. But that’s it, even if you include Mark Trumbo, who’s now in the division.
Now, you might be thinking that the NL West isn’t exactly outfield heavy, especially when players like Matt Kemp miss more than half of the season. True enough, but Venable was actually 28th overall in 2014. So if you are in a 10-team league (very shallow) that uses only three outfielders (very shallow), Venable was still someone who should been a starter. So, what exactly did he do?
Will Venable: 2014
But none of that matters now. Will he do it again in 2014? That’s the question.
He also scored his 64 runs in 2013 despite some of the team’s better hitters missing significant time (Jedd Gyorko, Carlos Quentin, Yonder Alonso), or not playing to anywhere near their potential (Chase Headley). Some of that is going to change in 2014.
Now, the question becomes, will Venable get on base as much in 2014 as he did in 2013? Well, despite a career high batting average in 2013, his .312 OBP was 10 points lower than his career mark, and 23 lower than 2012’s number. Based on that, you’d have to think that he’ll get on base at least as much in 2014 as he did in 2013, if not more.
That, combined with logic saying that some of the other guys in the order will improve, makes this one pretty easy, as long as he stays on the field.
Over/Under 2013 Total (64): Over
- Home Runs
A look at his career numbers would quickly indicate that this is a pretty easy under.
The 22 bombs were a career high, bettering the 18 that he hit in 2011 and 2012 combined. It’s not just that, if you look at his career splits, the numbers seemed way out of the blue?
AB per HR
Home AB per HR
Road AB per HR
What in the world happened in 2013?
Well, he did have a career year, and I certainly wouldn’t be betting on him equaling that in 2014. But I included the home/road splits as a reminder that the fences were moved in at Petco Park in 2013, as well. The fact that he had a career high and basically did a 180 on where his power usually came from is not a complete fluke.
Still, I don’t think we’re going to see him top 20 again.
Over/Under 2013 Total (22): Under
Well, we just went over the fact that his HR totals are likely to tail off a little bit, so we’re asking a simple question here. What kind of year will Everth Cabrera have hitting in front of him?
In a vacuum, this is an easy one. Cabrera played in only 95 games in 2013 and had a great year. Even if he falls down a bit, playing a full year will certainly open the door for Venable to have more RBI chances. Right?
Well, we don’t like in a vacuum. We live in a world where Cabrera not only had a good year, but entered it with a career .240 average/.321 on base percentage and then hit .283 with an OBP of .355. That’s quite the leap. Oh, and he also only played in 95 games because he was suspended for the last 50 of the season for PED use.
If Venable is hitting second behind Cabrera, then he’ll have a hard time getting to 53. The top two spots of a National League order aren’t exactly good for the RBI totals.
I don’t think he’ll completely drop off, but I don’t see Venable getting back to that total unless he moves down a spot or two in the order. Too many extenuating circumstances.
Over/Under 2013 Total (53): Under
This is probably the hardest to project. On one hand, we’ve already gone over the fact that his OBP is likely to go up, thus giving Venable more chances to steal bases. He’s also always been a high speed guy, so 22 swipes doesn’t seem that out of the ordinary.
On the other hand, you can’t help but notice that Venable’s stolen base totals have steadily decreased over each of the last four seasons. His 2013 total of 22 came despite having more plate appearances that he’d had in any of those seasons before. I know that thanks to pinch running, you can steal a base without recording a plate appearance. Still, that’s not a trend you want to see for a guy heading into his Age 31 season.
This will be close. I think if you draft Venable and he’s on the field for a similar amount of time in 2014 that he was in 2013, you can count on at least 20, but no more than about 25.
That puts us in the dreaded “push” category, but that’s not how I play.
Over/Under 2013 Total (22): Under
Venable could certainly afford to strike out less, but that’s not a new problem. The .268 was a career high, but he hit .264 in 2012 and had he recorded two more hits, 2012’s total would have been .269. Not exactly a monumental leap from one year to the next, nor would it be a monumental regression if he goes back.
So, the next question becomes this. Is his average lucky, unlucky, or just right? Well, let’s see how Venable has stacked up to another hitter that you’ve probably heard of.
|2012 Line Drive %||22.4 %||21.7 %|
|2012 Batting Average||.264||.330|
|2013 Line Drive %||21.3 %||24.0 %|
No, I am not saying that Will Venable is the kind of hitter that Miguel Cabrera is. I’m not that foolish. Cabrera doesn’t strike out as much, and his fly balls go for hits far more often than Venable’s do.
But I am saying that when Venable puts a ball in play, he gives himself a chance for a hit at a pretty good rate.
So, the idea that he’ll continue to grow as a hitter and be in the .268 range isn’t far-fetched.
Over/Under 2013 Total (.268): Over
Certainly we can’t expect Venable to be as highly rated in 2014 as he was in 2013. Even if he repeats the exact numbers, can’t we expect that Puig will be better? What about Matt Kemp, or Carl Crawford? That’s just the Dodgers.
Still, Venable is a fantasy outfielder in pretty much any format, regardless of how thin or deep the league is. He loses some value in a league that counts something like OBP, but Venable is a guy who will be a fantasy baseball contributor in 2014.