Adrian Gonzalez is in Florida with the Red Sox, but he's still creating a favorable impression with the Padres, specifically Will Venable, who is setting his swing like Gonzalez does. Venable, not happy with his set-up and swing path as the 2010 season wore on, studied Gonzalez, then chatted with him during the offseason, so it's no coincidence that their pre-swing now looks similar.
"That's exactly where I got it," Venable told me today.
Let's be clear: Their swings are still different. Gonzalez used a leg kick to "load" his swing. Venable plans to keep it simple with his legs.
But, like Gonzalez, he's resting the bat on his left shoulder in his pre-swing, then tipping it. Better timing and better swing path are the anticipated results.
More to the point: "I shouldn't strike out as much," Venable said. He said swing flaws led to him missing way too many good fastballs last year.
In January 2009, I listed an oldish Venable among the Padres' top 5 prospects, believing that his athleticism and smarts could make him an average player or better. I still believe that.
A former basketball star, he had to play catch-up. So far, he's done a very good job of it. He may not be far away from being a good player. Venable, 28, has enough power to command respect, and both his defense and his footspeed are above average. "I've got to get on base more," he admitted.
Let's not forget, Venable is trying to establish himself in the big leagues while also playing half his games in an extreme pitchers park that's extra tough on lefties. Here's what an American League executive said about him: "When you consider the ballpark there, it's more impressive what he's done. Put him in Cincinnati's ballpark and I'm not sure Jay Bruce is much better than him (overall)."