By Rich Arleo
CBS Local Sports, in our 30 Players 30 Days spring training feature, profiles one young player from each Major League Baseball team leading up to opening day.
2016 season (Minors): 83 G, 331 AB, .302 BA, 6 HR, 33 RBI, 25 SB, .842 OPS
2016 season (Majors): 73 G, 307 AB, .342 BA, 13 HR, 40 RBI, 33 SB, .937 OPS
In the winter before the 2015 season the Nationals somewhat surprisingly traded Steven Souza, a top prospect seemingly on the verge of breaking out, in a three-team trade that netted them two prospects — pitcher Joe Ross and a player to be named later. That PTBN turned out to be San Diego’s ‘14 first-round pick, Trea Turner.
Due to a rule at the time that prohibited teams from trading a recent draft pick within a year of being signed, Turner began the ‘15 season still in the Padres’ system until he could be officially moved to the Nationals on June 13. The rule was amended later that year and came to be known as the “Trea Turner” rule, which allowed the Braves to acquire Diamondbacks No. 1 pick Dansby Swanson.
While Turner was a lesser-known commodity than Souza at the time of the deal, he consistently received rave reviews from scouts and looked to fit the mold as a future everyday shortstop. Fast forward to this spring and Turner is coming off an incredibly impressive 73 games in his rookie year and looks ready to take a leap forward into stardom in his first full year as a shortstop.
Turner wasted no time showing off his base-stealing ability, swiping 33 bags with the Nationals. That total was good for seventh in baseball, and only he and Dee Gordon stole at least 30 bases in less than 100 games played. Most projection systems have him stealing 35-40 bases this season, but 50 steals (which would likely put him top five in baseball) certainly isn’t out of the question in a full season.
That will especially be true if Turner can get on base at a similar .370 clip to last season. While the OBP was high it wasn’t overly impressive given Turner’s .342 average, and he actually didn’t draw many walks. Among players with at least 300 plate appearances, his 4.3 BB% actually ranked 25th worst in the league. He could stand to improve his plate discipline by lowering his O-Swing% (outside swing percentage) from 31.1 and SwStr% (swinging-strike percentage) from 10.6% — both disappointing marks. Nonetheless, Turner made it work and finished the year tops among rookies with a .395 wOBA (weighted on-base average) and 147 wRC+ (weighted runs created) and second in WAR (3.3) only to reigning National League Rookie of the Year Corey Seager.
The key to Turner’s season may be how well he adjusts in moving back to his natural position full time, with former Nationals shortstop Danny Espinosa now with the Angels. Last season, Turner split his time at second base and center field, but most expect him to handle shortstop well. While there may be some growing pains at the start of the season as he reintroduces himself at short, it shouldn’t take long for him to reestablish himself as a strong infielder while leading the way atop a loaded Nationals lineup.
Rich Arleo is a freelance sports writer and editor who covers Major League Baseball and fantasy sports. You can follow him on Twitter, @Rarleo.