What Kind of Player Will Trea Turner Become?

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Somewhere, in San Diego, Padres GM A.J. Preller is nursing a glass of scotch.

After all, he is the man responsible for trading away a prospect who has since blossomed into one of Major League Baseball’s must-see young stars.

Preller’s multitude of gaffes has been well-documented. But, when all is said and done, trading Trea Turner may well be the mistake that haunts him most.

Trea Vance Turner is 23, but looks younger. His boyish features imply he should be searching for homecoming tuxes, not swatting home runs at highest level of professional baseball.

He did it twice, last night – the first multi-homer run game of his brief career. The second, a 432-foot bomb, doubled as his first, career walk-off shot as well.

He’s hardly been scuffling (.345 avg) but, after Friday’s power show, it really feels like the kid has arrived. In the aftermath, it’s time to re-evaluate what kind of player Turner will become.

The Speed

From the earliest scouting reports, we knew about the speed.

As an NC State freshman, he set a school record with 57 stolen bases (in 61 attempts). He also tied the ACC single-game mark by swiping 5 bags in one game.

As a professional, he continued to steal at will, collecting 77 thefts and getting caught just 12 times. This season, Statcast has clocked him at a Cheetah-like, 22.7 mph around the bases.

What he hadn’t shown, at any level of the minors, is power.

The Power

In just over 1,000 minor league games, he hit 19 home runs – hardly a Ruth-ian figure.

In 223 big league at-bats, he has 8 home runs. And, they haven’t all been cheap. According to ESPN Stats and Information, the average home run distance for all MLB players, this season, is about 400 feet. Here is a chart, showing the landing place of Turner’s home runs:

turner_trea_2016_scatter

As you can see, all but two of his home runs have traveled average-or-greater distances. Clearly, there’s some pop behind that bat, after all. The average launch speed of balls hit off his bat is 91.32 mph, versus the MLB average of 89.58 mph.

Turner isn’t exactly an adolescent, at 23, but it is reasonable that his body continues to fill out. If so, expect a proportional rise to his power numbers.

Based on his minor league numbers, I would have projected him for a Dave Roberts-type career. Roberts stole nearly 250 bases over the better part of 10 seasons, but his single-year watermark for home runs was a mere 8.

Now, it appears that a more apt comparison might be somewhere along the lines of Jimmy Rollins. Rollins, like Turner, came up as a speedy shortstop with an aversion to taking walks. He came to harness his power stroke, collecting 13 seasons of double-digit taters (even reaching the 30-mark in his MVP, 2007 campaign).

And thus illustrates the, well, power of the power dimension. It means the difference between a career as a role-player and one who garners annual, MVP-consideration.

The National’s bill for acquiring Trea Turner’s services was journeyman outfielder, Steven Souza Jr. Not only that, they also acquired starting pitcher Joe Ross, who has shown teases of immense-promise.

Thus, the once-unheralded deal is now paying dividends for the Nats.  Imagine reaching for a lost, ten-dollar bill, only to discover a twenty lying beneath it.

Did I mention Turner is under team control for another six years?

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