Trea Turner‘s sparkling 2016 debut was the lone bright spot in the Washington Nationals’ 7-2 loss in Cincinnati. Starter Gio Gonzalez struggled greatly, and the rest of the offense slowed to a halt. The lineup is in dire need of reshuffling.
There isn’t any question about it: Trea Turner deserves to be an everyday MLB player.
Turner went 3-for-3 with a walk against Red’s starter Brandon Finnegan tonight, and displayed savvy fielding and speed to boot. The 22-year-old was a welcome sight in a lineup that featured three hitters with under a .200 batting average. One baserunning miscue on a first-to-third run on a single was his only blemish.
But where does a player like him fit? Current shortstop Danny Espinosa is blocking his path, but for what advantage? Turner is a much better hitter (Espinosa, hitting .197 with six home runs, was one of those three hitters under .200) and base stealer.
The only reason Espinosa is still in the lineup is his defense, which has always been stellar. The prospect of losing that makes me and surely Nationals management hesitant, but this game provided a great reason to make a permanent move.
Against a Reds pitching staff that is one of the worst in all of baseball (especially the bullpen, which has over a 5 ERA combined) the Nats managed just seven hits — four of them singles. Ben Revere is mired in now a month-long slump (0-4 tonight, .160 average). While the recovery from his opening day injury bought him some time to work his way back into it, his slump has gone on too long.
Turner’s great debut performance highlights the weakness in the veterans around him in the lineup, like Revere. Jose Lobaton, while able to show up in some clutch situations, just isn’t there offensively, even for a backup catcher (.163 average). Pedro Severino, the Nats best system catcher right now, would be an upgrade in nearly every way despite his still-raw skillset.
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Yes, Washington is in first place right now. It is on pace for 90+ wins. The pitching staff and bullpen has largely been fantastic. But that doesn’t mean management should get complacent with the lineup. It’s really all Daniel Murphy right now. Where in the world would this offense be without his league-leading numbers? Wow, that’s tough to think about.
Harper will eventually wake up. It would be nice to have some hitters that can get on base in front of him, like Turner! Revere, so far, has NOT been that. Turner has made it clear in interviews that his time in AAA has improved his plate discipline and approach to his at-bats, and the numbers support that. He’s hit .300 at every level at this point.
All signs point to him not being the dreaded AAAA player, if you will, similar to what Steve Lombardozzi was: Rakes in the minor leagues, but can’t put it together in the majors without everyday playing time and years of patience from management.
I’m confident that Turner won’t be that. He’s shown in his short time in the major leagues that he can play at this level, and the team is at a point where he deserves an opportunity to show what he can do with an everyday role. The players in front of him haven’t shown that they deserve to keep him in Triple-A.
Hopefully the Nationals wake up and smell the roses. The team has the roster to provide answers to the questions brought up by Turner’s performance tonight. Whether they take advantage of that may be the difference between a 5+ game lead in first at the end of the season, or five games behind and outside looking in at the playoffs.