The situation: The Nationals have been among the most disappointing teams of not just this year, but the past decade. Desperate times call for desperate measures; and Washington will call upon Trea Turner to see if they can rectify the disaster that has been 2015.
Background: Turner was one of the highest-rated juniors coming into the 2014 draft, but a so-so junior season saw his stock slip, and he fell to the Padres with the 13th-overall pick. His stock was quickly reestablished as a professional, as he put up impressive numbers at the lower levels and was a standout out in the Arizona Fall League. He then went on to give an award-winning acting performance as he pretended to be a Padres prospect for eight months, as the player to be named later in the three-team deal that saw Wil Myers end up in San Diego. He’s been just as good since arriving in DC, and was hitting .313 in Triple-A Syracuse before his promotion to the big league club.
Scouting report: Turner’s swing still is slightly unorthodox; but he has made strides with it since he was at NC State, as he’s quicker through the zone with more extension that allows him to hit the ball hard to the opposite field – a necessity for the type of hitter Turner is. He’s also added some strength and has incorporated his hips, giving him the ability to drive the ball into the gaps and occasionally pulling a ball out of the park. He’s an aggressive hitter who will swing at the first pitch but isn’t allergic to walks, and his excellent hand-eye coordination allows him to put the ball in play at an impressive rate.
As good as he has been with the bat, Turner’s best tool is his speed. He’s not an 80 runner, but it is double-plus, and that makes him a threat to steal anytime he’s on the bases. He also reads pitchers well, and his ability to get jumps enables him to take an extra base – or two – on balls in play when he’s on a bag.
In the field, Turner has also made strides, and though many thought he would have to move to second base at some point, it now looks like he is a good bet to spend most of his career on the left side of the bag. His speed allows him to make plays to the left and right, and his soft hands and quick feet allow him to get rid of the ball quickly. The only concern here is that the arm strength is only so-so, and there are moments where he’ll rush and airmail the ball past first base.
Immediate Big League Future: Because of his speed, Turner has a chance to make an immediate impact on the Nationals, even if he isn’t a guy that isn’t an everyday player. If Washington does decide to give Turner regular playing time—and they should – his ability to make consistent hard contact should allow him to be relatively successful in his first crack against big league hurlers. The ceiling is top of the order shortstop who can score plenty of runs and steal 40 bases, with super-utility infielder as a useable floor. – Christopher Crawford
Fantasy Impact: Under different circumstances, the Nationals might have waited until 2016 to promote Trea Turner to the big club. However, with their offense struggling and the team falling further and further behind Mets in the National League East race, the organization decided make an impact move by promoting one of the better prospects in baseball. Turner isn’t replacing an injured starter, but with Ian Desmond underperforming in the first half and Anthony Rendon playing well below the level of his 2014 breakout campaign, it is likely that Turner gets a healthy amount of playing time in the next six weeks even if he isn’t an everyday starter.
The rankings gap for Turner on the Baseball Prospectus midseason prospect Top 50 (ranked 43rd overall) and the fantasy midseason Top 50 (25th) has a lot to do with Turner’s speed. Turner’s power may take some time to develop at the major-league level (he hit eight home runs in 500 minor league plate appearances this year), but the speed should translate fairly well to the majors. Turner’s profile also indicates that he should be a fantasy positive with the bat even if he can’t crack single digits in home runs right away. A .270-.280 batting average in 2015’s offensive context is positive in deeper mixed league and NL-only formats; combine this with 20-25 stolen base potential, and you have a solid fantasy shortstop who won’t be a superstar immediately but should contribute.
Playing time is the key to Turner’s fantasy value, and given the Nationals’ current state this is by far the most difficult thing to predict. The Nationals didn’t promote Turner for him to watch games on the bench, but manager Matt Williams isn’t the most out-of-the-box thinker in a major league dugout, to put it politely. Turner is a must-own in NL-only and deserves a $10-15 FAAB bid, but everywhere else the picture isn’t so crystal clear. He should be grabbed in deeper mixed leagues if you have a hole in your middle infield, but he is a risk/reward player in that format. In 10- or 12-team mixed leagues, Turner is merely someone you should stash and keep an eye on at the moment. We are approaching the time of year when teams in any format should be closely monitoring each and every category, so if you can make up a significant amount of ground in stolen bases, Turner is going to be one of the better gambles you can make in that category the rest of the way. – Mike Gianella
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