How far the Washington Nationals go in 2018 depends on what Trea Turner can do. As he heads into his third campaign, his limits are boundless.
When relaxed and healthy, Turner’s abilities leap off his Baseball Reference page. His power and speed are phenomenal. The defense is a tad better than his numbers show. If he is confident, there is a Most Valuable Player award or two in his future.
Already, the resume stuns you. A career slash line of .304/.348/.491 over 198 games. Turner’s OPS of .840 adjusts to a healthy 116 OPS+. His 162-game averages smooth to 20 homers, 70 RBI and 66 stolen bases. Those numbers get you a day in the sun in Cooperstown. His potential remains off the charts.
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A natural leadoff hitter, his new manager probably will alternate Turner and Adam Eaton in the spot until a winner emerges next spring. Although both are on-base machines, the key to the 2018 lineup is maximizing his ability to steal bases. In what many considered a down year in 2017, he stole 46.
The goal of the next hitting coach with Turner is keeping him focused and relaxed. The spotlight and pressure took a toll last season. There were times, especially in the playoffs, where he pressed at the plate while unable to judge what the Chicago Cubs threw him. His production came after Jayson Werth moved to the two-hole.
Once Turner understands what he is capable of, good things will happen. A full year tag-teaming with Eaton helps. Even playing a full 150-160 game season will do wonders. Remember, a broken wrist threw him off most of the summer.
Outside of his pure pop, Turner’s speed on the bases make him a legitimate double-digit triples hitter. He has 14 in two seasons and the 162-game average estimates 11 in a full year. When you add a potential 32 doubles, he is a run scoring machine. In 98 games last year, he crossed home 75 times. Next year, if healthy, sees him cross the century mark.
Still, sometimes Turner is rough around the edges.
Aside from the games where he acted like the proverbial deer in the road staring at on-coming headlights, he must move away from the constant jump throws from short. Again, playing time and understanding will benefit. But, refining those habits in West Palm Beach must happen this spring.
The Nats can contend for years. The emergence of Turner as a brute offensive force is one reason.