Trea Turner of the Washington Nationals is one of the most exciting young players in baseball. Why is that? His freakish speed doesn’t hurt.
Baseball has gotten a reputation in recent years as a bit of a dull game. It lacks the bone-crushing violence of football, or the up and down pace of basketball. It moves at a slower pace. Baseball is a leisurely Sunday afternoon.
It’s a slow paddle through the river rather than a kayak race down rushing rapids. Just because it’s different doesn’t mean it is any less entertaining. If you look hard enough you can find plenty of players in the game that will excite you. A collection of players that can “make baseball fun again”, as Bryce Harper would say. Take Washington Nationals speedster Trea Turner for example.
Turner has taken the baseball world by storm since his call-up in late July. After spending 83 games dominating Triple-A pitching, Turner was finally called up for good in July. In 213 plate appearances Turner is batting .343/.362/.539 with 5 home runs and 25 RBI. Over that time he’s put up a wRC+ of 137 and wOBA of .380.
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As I noted, speed is Turner’s most elite skill. He leads Major League Baseball in FanGraphs speed rating at 9.0. He’s also stolen 20 bases on 23 attempts. Anytime he gets on first base he is a threat to swipe second.
Heck, anytime he’s on second he’s a threat to swipe third. His speed even helps increase his impact with the bat. Any slow ground ball on the infield is an opportunity for an infield hit for Turner. Any ball in the gap that would be a double for most players has a chance to turn into a triple. His speed changes the game.
Turner’s long-term outlook as big leaguer is a bit of a question mark, albeit an exciting question mark. Defensively his versatility stands out the most. He could conceivably be an above-average defender at shortstop (his natural position), centerfield (where he’s played 22 games this season), or second base (where he’s played most of his games this season). He even played third base his freshman year at NC State, though it’s unlikely he would play third in the majors.
Centerfield could be the permanent option if he gets more comfortable with his routes and reads on fly balls. Considering his limited time playing the outfield in the minor leagues it’s amazing how good he has been thus far.
So far his speed has helped him compensate for any awkwardness he has dealt with in adapting to the new position. Once he becomes more familiar with his surroundings and gets more reps it is easy to imagine him turning into one of the best defensive centerfielders in baseball. Speed kills and speed thrills, friends.
With the bat, it seems clear that he will hit for average. Over the course of a full season the Nats would probably like to see him draw a few more walks (his walk rate is only 2.8 percent), but if he’s a perennial .315 to .330 hitter it might not matter.
Still, a more patient Turner hitting around .300 with an OBP close to .400 would be an absolute monster and a possible MVP candidate, especially if he taps into more power as he develops. That’s asking a lot of a guy that hasn’t even played half a season in Major League Baseball. Regression may be coming as pitchers begin to discover his weakness, but for now Nationals fans can keep dreaming about a reality in which Turner reaches his full potential.
District on Deck
Even if doesn’t come close to keeping up the torrid pace he’s been on in his rookie season, there is no longer a debate about whether or not Turner will hit enough to be a quality major league player. Power is the only question mark left concerning Turner’s bat.
So far he has hit for more power than most would have projected for him. He’s hit five homers in 213 plate appearances, has a slugging percentage of .539, and his isolated power is at .196. For comparison his isolated power of .196 would rank 5th best for shortstops, 8th best for second basemen, and 6th best for centerfielders this season. Turner’s got some pop; the question is if it will continue to show up over the course of a full season and throughout his career.
Turner is a potent weapon Washington will have at their disposal for this year’s playoff run and for many years to come. Whether he continues to play this well past this season remains to be seen, but at the moment it is fun for fans to watch him make a name for himself as he terrorizes the National League.
Unless you’re a Braves fan, in that case it’s been torture.