Turner again showed off elite skills, but still has room to grow

As we transition into offseason mode here, we’re reviewing each significant player on the Nationals roster. We continue today with Trea Turner, whose first full big league season was interrupted by injuries.

PLAYER REVIEW: TREA TURNER

Age on opening day 2018: 24

How acquired: Acquired from Padres with Joe Ross, with Nats trading Steven Souza Jr. and Travis Ott to Rays in three-team deal, December 2014

MLB service time: 1 year, 135 days

2017 salary: $554,900

Contract status: Under team control through 2018, likely arbitration-eligible in 2019, free agent in 2023

2017 stats: 98 G, 447 PA, 412 AB, 75 R, 117 H, 24 2B, 6 3B, 11 HR, 45 RBI, 46 SB, 8 CS, 30 BB, 80 SO, .284 AVG, .338 OBP, .451 SLG, .789 OPS, -2 DRS, 3.0 WAR

Quotable: “I’d like to see him all year. He’d probably steal 70 or 80. It’s just a matter of him staying healthy.” - Dusty Baker on Turner

2017 analysis: On the heels of an electric rookie season, Turner entered his sophomore campaign with lofty expectations at the plate and some reservations about how he’d handle the move back to shortstop. Turns out there was more reason to be concerned about his offense early on than his defense.

trea-turner-stealing-white.jpgA minor hamstring strain in April contributed to Turner’s sluggish start. By late May, he was batting .237 with a .269 on-base percentage and a garish 35-to-6 strikeout-to-walk rate. At the same time, he had been charged with only two errors at shortstop, proving far more reliable there than some expected.

Turner turned red-hot in June and was returning to his peak rookie form until June 29, when a fastball from Cubs reliever Pedro Strop struck him in the right wrist and fractured it. Turner missed the next two months, and though he returned in time to play all of September, his season did not prove to be what it could have been.

Even so, Turner’s numbers in barely more than one-half of a full season still were awfully good. His 46 stolen bases established a new club record, shattering Alfonso Soriano’s 2006 mark (41 in 156 games). And he finished with only eight errors in 376 chances; his .979 fielding percentage was best among any regular Nationals shortstop in club history.

2018 outlook: If he stays healthy the entire season, Turner no doubt will be a major contributor for the Nationals in 2018. He’s perfectly capable of stealing 70 or more bases, with 15 homers, 40 doubles and 10 triples.

Which isn’t to say there isn’t plenty of room for improvement. Turner needs to continue to work on cutting down his swings-and-misses and increasing his takes. He needs to be willing to try to bunt more often (he only has three bunt hits in his major league career). All of this will be amplified even more in October (when Turner struggled).

In the field, Turner needs to continue making the routine plays as well as he did this season while also working on making a few more beyond-routine plays. The more time he spends at shortstop, the better he should get.

With Adam Eaton set to return from an ACL tear, Turner will have help atop the Nationals lineup. The two didn’t play together for long, but the Eaton-Turner 1-2 combo actually worked quite well and may be the best answer moving forward.

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