Getting To Know Trea Turner


As MLB Pipeline continues its look at the top ten prospects at each position, the Washington Nationals have been well represented on this list. Lucas Giolito was the top right-handed pitcher and Michael Taylor has been ranked number six on the list of outfielders. Today, we are going to take an in-depth look at a prospect that will be in the Nationals’ system sometime this June, Trea Turner.

Turner, the 13th pick in the 2013 MLB Draft out of N.C. State, was the player-to-be-named later in the three-team trade involving Wil Myers and Steven Souza Jr. last December. Due to MLB rules, Turner can’t join the Nationals until one year after he was drafted. He was ranked number eight on the Top 10 shortstops in the minors, according to MLB Pipeline. 

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Last season, the 21-year-old played in two levels in the San Diego Padres’ system during his first year of professional baseball. After Turner played in 23 games with the short season Eugene Emeralds, he was promoted to the low-A Fort Wayne TinCaps of the Midwest League.

To get to know about Turner’s game a little bit more, I reached out to John Nolan. Nolan was the play-by-play announcer for the TinCaps last season. You can follow John on Twitter: @John_G_Nolan.

Here is my Q+A with the TinCaps Broadcaster about Turner’s game, how he handled the media pressure of being a top prospect, and how does he think he would handle a situation where he would still be with San Diego even though he knows he will eventually be in Washington:

Ricky: What was the reaction around the Fort Wayne organization once Turner was called up from Eugene to play for the TinCaps?

John: I think there’s almost always going to be buzz when you have the 13th overall pick join your team a month after being drafted, but Trea Turner’s arrival in Fort Wayne was even more anticipated than usual. Through the first three-plus months of the season, the TinCaps were having a disappointing campaign record-wise and shortstop was a position of weakness. (Franchy Cordero — a 6-3, 175-pound, 19-year-old shortstop — was the top prospect the Padres had sent to Fort Wayne to start the year but he was sent down after committing 18 errors in 20 games while hitting .188. A 23-year-old guy named Chase Jensen then filled in and performed admirably in the field but hit .161 in 16 games before a hand injury put him on the DL. That led to Josh VanMeter, a prospect as a second baseman, being forced to shift over and reshuffle the rest of the infield.)

Now the excitement in Fort Wayne for Trea was somewhat tempered when you checked in on how he was doing in Eugene and saw he was only hitting .228 in 23 games. After all, coming out of NC State, the consensus was his glove and speed were phenomenal, but there were questions about the bat. (Now of course what the box scores don’t factor is how it’s a whirlwind for a number one pick to go from school in North Carolina to home in Florida to the Padres’ facilities in Arizona to Oregon in a snap. Or how for his first few weeks in Eugene, his bats were delayed in arriving.)

But suffice to say, Trea came at the perfect time. The TinCaps were on a franchise-record 13-game losing streak when he came to Fort Wayne on July 12 (along with Ryan Butler, who was a fellow rookie and a guy who can throw 100 MPH out of the bullpen). Of course baseball isn’t so simple that one player can entirely change the fortunes of a team by himself, yet Trea’s presence and performance turned the tide of the TinCaps’ season. The team was 35-55 without him and then 28-21 with him here, finding a way to sneak into the Midwest League Playoffs.

Not only did Trea fill the void at short, but he also stepped into the leadoff spot left vacant by a midseason promotion of Mallex Smith – an outfield prospect traded to the Braves this offseason as part of the Justin Upton deal. In his first month, he had a slash of .434 / .500 / .637 with 10 doubles, a couple triples, 14 RBI, plus 10 stolen bases. One of Trea’s teammates told me Trea set the tone for the team in the way he got his uniform dirty every game. Cliché? Yes. But also true. He has a fairly low key personality and leads by example

R: What was the one aspect of Turner’s game that impressed you the most? One part of his game that you think he needs to improve on?

J: It’s a bit daunting to highlight just one aspect of Trea’s game that impressed the most, but I’d say his sheer speed coupled with his routine hustle. Anytime he makes contact, you believe he has a chance to beat out a throw. The most eye-opening play he made, though, in my opinion, was back-handing a grounder deep in the hole and making a Derek Jeter-esque jump-throw from left field to beat the runner. Granted it was a catcher running, but still, it was a “big league” play.

Another plus if you’re a Nats fan looking for reasons to be excited about Trea, he was pretty clutch. During his limited time in Fort Wayne, he had a walk-off single, got on base to score some clutch runs, and in an elimination playoff game on the road – following a lengthy rain delay – he hit a triple off the Reds’ No. 6 prospect, Jonathon Crawford, to set the tone for an eventual victory.

As for one part of his game that he needs to improve on – and obviously as a young player there’s room for improvement across the board – he broke an exceptionally high number of bats. So if he can square more balls up, and go the other way with more frequency, that’ll make him even more dangerous at the plate.

R: How did Turner handle the hype around him as a first round pick in terms of dealing with the media?

J: Fort Wayne isn’t to be confused with a major market like DC in terms of media, but Trea did a fine job dealing with reporters. Marshawn Lynch he is not. With that said, it doesn’t seem to be in his personality to seek out the camera either, yet he “gets it.” Whether it was a phone interview with a newspaper in San Diego or, or a local journalist, he always obliged. Playing at NC State helped prepare him for that.

The best example of Trea’s maturity in dealing with the media came after his final game as a TinCap. The team’s playoff run ended in the division championship series in stomach-punch fashion. (After overcoming a three-run deficit in the top of the eighth inning, Fort Wayne relinquished the lead in the bottom of the eighth when Trea fielded a routine grounder and threw to first. First baseman Jake Bauers – who went to Tampa Bay in the same trade – never got his foot on the bag, allowing what would prove to be the game-winning run to score.) Not only did Trea talk to the media afterward, he took blame for the error, saying he should’ve made a better throw.

R: Turner had 24 walks last season in 187 at-bats. From covering him, how would you evaluate his plate discipline as the leadoff hitter?

J: I didn’t find plate discipline to be much of an issue for Trea. He jumped from 22 strikeouts (vs. 15 walks) in July to 34 strikeouts (vs. 14 walks) in August. I think part of the explanation for that is he was due to come down to earth after a blistering July. I’d also consider fatigue down the stretch after a long year, going back to the college slate. And, honestly, I felt like at times Trea had a better sense of the strike zone than umpires, who in A-ball are working on their craft just like players. Sometimes one bad called-strike would disrupt or end an at-bat. But I can’t think of Trea chasing too many bad pitches. To the contrary, a couple of high-pressure at-bats come to mind where he drew walks.

R: With the unique situation that Turner is in with having to stay in the Padres organization till June, how do you think San Diego will handle it before he joins the Nationals?

J: Selfishly, I’m rooting for some far-fetched scenario in which he ends up back in Fort Wayne to start the season. But I don’t expect that to happen. I would hope baseball can work it out that he can start the season with the Nationals.

Turner is projected to begin in High-A last season with the Lake Elsinore Storm. If Turner can continue his great play from Fort Wayne, he could be in the pros in a couple of seasons. Could he be that prospect down the road that replaces Ian Desmond should Desmond leave for free agency?

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