Expectations have always been high for Trea Turner, from an All-America career at North Carolina State to his selection by the San Diego Padres with the 13th overall pick in the 2014 Major League Baseball draft to a trade later that year that sent him to the Washington Nationals.
Another constant throughout Turner’s professional baseball career has been his exceptional speed, which helped propel him up the organizational ladder with similar alacrity.
In parts of three minor league seasons, Turner hit .316 with a .380 on-base percentage and 77 stolen bases in 89 attempts (86.5%).
The only thing putting the brakes on his professional career was the Nationals’ reluctance to find a spot for him in their everyday lineup.
Turner made his major league debut in 2015, serving mostly as a pinch-runner and getting 44 plate appearances in 27 games. His talent was undeniable, but with Danny Espinosa penciled in as the starting shortstop, Turner was only No. 33 on last year’s 100 Names You Need to Know list.
The solution was changing positions — from middle infield to center field, a position he’d never played as a professional. With six games of minor league experience in the outfield under his belt, Turner was promoted to the majors for good right before the All-Star break. Two weeks later, he made his first start in center.
“The thing about Trea, he’s a quick learner,” Nationals manager Dusty Baker says. “I’ve said this before, and usually you don’t have to tell him the same thing over more than once in a short period of time. These are the kind of guys that are easy to coach — the guys that have some knowledge on their own but also have the ability to learn and then to apply it on command in a short period of time.”
There were some growing pains during his on-the-job training, but his speed helped cover up some of those mistakes. Meanwhile, the offensive spark he provided from the leadoff spot was something the Nationals were sorely missing.