As the Washington Nationals prepare for the long season ahead, Trea Turner is primed to show what he can do. A full year will do him wonders.
In his second year as the undisputed starting shortstop, we should see was his full potential is on both sides of the ball. Is this season the one where he steals 75 bases? Can he learn to relax and lay off pitches? Will Turner relax and focus on letting the game come to him instead of pressing?
Under the weight of high expectations following his legendary rookie campaign, sometimes Turner struggled. The timing of his biggest slump coming in October cast a shadow of what was a good year.
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Despite missing nearly three months with a broken wrist, Turner swiped 46 bags while collecting a slash line of .284/.338/.451. Although his on-base percentage will drop him out of the leadoff spot with Adam Eaton returning, Turner’s batting and slugging numbers were solid.
Even with 64 potential games missed, his six triples led the team while Turner was fourth in runs scored with 75. But, because of his struggle to read pitches and working counts, his OPS+ was 102. Sometimes statistics do not tell a full story. Anyone capable of his numbers is not an average player.
As positive as his rookie campaign was, Turner had to feel disappointed with his sophomore season. Not only should he be okay with last year, he must forget it. Aside from those expectations, he learned how to handle shortstop at a big-league level, a far cry from his 2016 crash course in the outfield.
It must have felt like his rookie year again.
As the new season dawns, the offense around Turner is in a better place. Daniel Murphy carries the only lingering offensive injury heading into Spring Training. Eaton and Anthony Rendon are tremendous table-setters. Bryce Harper is still here. The Nats bats are lethal.
It is crucial Turner relaxes and grows into wherever Dave Martinez puts him in the lineup. Maybe, dump the jump throw on grounders as the default too.
Turner has the rare ability to change a game from the moment he strides to the plate. He can take extra bases while running along with turning walks into doubles. With a “Treacycle” under his belt, National League pitchers cannot rest against him. His ability to make opponents second-guess themselves is what makes him special.
Still, the driving theme this year is unfinished business. For Turner, this is the season where he must bottle those doubts and bury them.