Washington Nationals Reaction: The Nats Have Found Their Leadoff Man

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Aug 3, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Washington Nationals second baseman Trea Turner (left) celebrates with hitting coach Rick Schu after hitting a home run in the second inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 3, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Washington Nationals second baseman Trea Turner (left) celebrates with hitting coach Rick Schu after hitting a home run in the second inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /
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Trea Turner led the Washington Nationals’ offense to a 5-1 win over the San Francisco Giants Friday night, providing a spark at the top of the lineup that the club desperately missed in the first half of the season.

When the Washington Nationals acquired center fielder Ben Revere over the offseason in exchange for the troubled Drew Storen, common thinking assumed the Nats had picked up a proven leadoff hitter that could anchor the top of the lineup. Instead, Revere got hurt on Opening Day and wound up on the Disabled List for the first month of the season. Since his return, the former Blue Jay has struggled to find his rhythm—he’s posted a .220/.271/.309 slash line in 55 games at the leadoff spot.

While Revere was on the shelf, manager Dusty Baker went with 25-year old Michael Taylor at both center field and leadoff. The results, .206/.248/.382 in 34 games batting at the top of the order, were not any better. Overall the team has posted a .624 OPS out of the leadoff spot, far and away the worst mark in the National League.

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The Nats finally had enough. Top hitting prospect Trea Turner had been tearing it up in Triple-A all season, but Danny Espinosa blocked his path to the majors at his natural position of shortstop. Washington decided to try Turner out at center field, working him out in the outfield at Syracuse before calling him up July 9. He continued to take reps with the major league club until making his center field debut July 26.

Since taking over at leadoff, Turner has been a force at the plate. Hitting .314/.333/.529 with two home runs, three triples, three doubles, twelve runs scored, eleven RBIs, and seven stolen bases, it’s no surprise as to why Baker has stuck with him. The threat to steal is always there with Turner on the basepaths, giving the Nats their best baserunner since Alfonso Soriano swiped 41 bags in 2006.

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Not to be forgotten is Turner’s apparent comfort level roaming the outfield. While some doubted his ability to make the transition to center, he has excelled at the position thus far. Whether or not he stays at the position beyond this season, Turner is here to stay. It appears the days of Ben Revere stepping onto the field as an everyday player are numbered, and Trea Turner is finally showing everyone what he is capable of at the major league level.

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