Washington Nationals: Who should hit leadoff next season?

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PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 29: Trea Turner #7 of the Washington Nationals is congratulated by Adam Eaton #2 after hitting a two-run home run during the first inning of a game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on June 29, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 29: Trea Turner #7 of the Washington Nationals is congratulated by Adam Eaton #2 after hitting a two-run home run during the first inning of a game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on June 29, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) /
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Washington Nationals Trea Turner Joe Ross
(Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /

The case for Trea Turner

When Adam Eaton was on the shelf for a couple months early on, we saw Trea Turner blossom in the leadoff spot. His speed is game-changing for the Washington Nationals and he is clearly the leadoff hitter of the future for this team.

His 43 stolen bases last season led the entire National League, but Nats fans who watch him on a regular basis know that his ceiling is somewhere in the 70 steals range. Part of the reason for the suppression was due to him hitting in front of Bryce Harper several times, and the Nats not wanting to take the bat out of the outfielder’s hands.

So say Turner hits leadoff, with Eaton hitting behind him, there’s no benefit for someone to pitch around Eaton to get to someone like Anthony Rendon. Therefore, if the shortstop leads off, he should have ample opportunities to get himself into scoring position for the heart of the order.

However, unlike Eaton, Turner doesn’t quite have the same on-base skills as the former White Sox outfielder. Turner’s career OBP of .346 is a fair amount lower than Eaton’s .363, while he also doesn’t draw as many walks as the team would like with a 7.5 career walk percentage compared to Eaton’s 8.9 percent.

But Turner showed noticeable signs of improvement in that department, in particular when Eaton was out with injury. He had the highest walk rate of his career at 9.3 percent, and also had the lowest strikeout rate in his career with 17.8 percent, so he may be ready for the top spot in 2019.

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