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Fantasy Baseball Sleeper: Padres Outfielder Will Venable

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At the end of my drafts, I sometimes look for guys who can help in one category, whether if be a hitter like Russell Branyan who can provide power, or a reliever who could grab some saves. You can also look for guys like Will Venable who can provide some pop, but also steal bases for you.

In an article written by TIm Sullivan at the San Diego Union Tribune on Saturday, he had this to say about Venable:

The Padres’ foremost base stealer has been given a green light and a strategic imperative to ramp up the

running game. If the Home Team is to compensate for the loss of slugger Adrian Gonzalez, it may have to do

much of it in 90-foot increments.

"One through eight, I want our guys to have the mindset that we’re creating tension for the opposition," Padres

coach Dave Roberts said Friday at the Padres’ spring training complex. "(And) It’s going to start with Will this

year on the offensive end. Obviously, with Adrian gone, you can’t sit back and wait on that three-run homer.

You’ve got to really create scoring opportunities and I think this team has already embraced that."

More after the jump:

So, it sounds like Venable will be the focus of the Padres running game, so to speak, in 2011. In 2010, Venable hit just .245-.324-.408 with 13 HRs, 51 RBIs, 60 runs scored and 29 SBs. Venable walks at a rate approaching 12%, but struck out in 32% of his ABs in 2010, which is way to many for a leadoff hitter. HItting in the leadoff spot in 2010, Venable hit very well, hitting .299-.341-.393 in 1117 ABs. He stole 7 bases in 11 attempts, and had a K/BB rate of 30-8. Venable also hit 5th, 6th and 7th in the Padres lineup last year, but judging by his splits, hitting leadoff served him well.

Venable has a problem hitting lefties, as he hit just .175-.213-.281 in 57 ABs in 2010, but he hit better vs. right handed pitching to the tune of .257-.341-.430 in 335 ABs. Venable may never hit for a good average, but when he is on base, he will have the green light in 2011.

Padres first base coach Dave Robert also had this to say about Venable in Sullivan's article:

For example, Roberts has taught Venable to avoid a flat-footed start by raising his back heel off the ground

prior to takeoff. Through improved technique and heightened awareness, Roberts says Venable can steal as

many as 40 bases this season.

"That’s definitely an attainable-type number for him, and I’m sure he’s set higher goals," Roberts said. "I think

the thing he has to just continue to do is trust his instincts. The more you do it, the more you trust it, the better

you become. "

If Venable steals 40+ bases in 2011, he will have an easy time outperforming his draft position.