Trea Turner is still a shortstop; however, on Tuesday while playing for AAA-Syracuse, Turner started at 2nd base for the 1st time ever. Mike Rizzo made some comments which you can read below that might lead you to believe Trea would be back to shortstop on Wednesday night which was not the case as Trea started again at 2nd base.
Does this mean anything in where Turner will project for the future? It could as the Nats still have Escobar and Espinosa under team control for next year, and both have played shortstop in the Majors. It is widely expected that Ian Desmond will depart for Free Agency after this season to another team which would leave 3 MLB middle infielders that the Nats control for 2016 with Anthony Rendon for 3rd/2nd, Espi for 3rd/SS/2nd, and Yunel Escobar for 3rd/SS/2nd. Turner could fit in as another versatile infielder at certainly SS/2nd at some point in 2016. These are all projections and much could happen between now, and Opening Day 2016 which could also affect projectibility. For anyone worried about Rendon, the off-season rest will hopefully help him back into prime form that he exhibited in his 2014 season that earned him Top 5 voting in the NL MVP. It also doesn’t take much to also foresee that there could once again be 4 infielders to cover 3rd, SS, and 2nd base between Turner, Rendon, Escobar and Espinosa plus Difo could figure in the mix also.
Turner caught a little bit of the error bug with his 21st of the year last week, and some scouts have long thought that Turner would be a 2nd baseman when he arrives in the Majors. Other scouts have felt that Turner has the athleticism and arm strength to be a good MLB shortstop. Everyone has opinions. The game moves quicker at the MLB level, and flexibility is a good thing to give the Nats alternatives with trying Trea Turner at 2nd base a few games while still in the Minors.
Rizzo explained playing Turner at 2nd base, “We’re just trying to get him some versatility. We’re just trying to get him some exposure at both positions in case when he gets to the big leagues, he can play second as well as short. We think he can play short. He’s got the skill set to play shortstop every day in the big leagues. He’s got all the skills you want to have as a shortstop. That doesn’t mean he couldn’t play second base as well too, but we see him as a guy that has the opportunity to play shortstop. That’s what we think.”
In Wednesday’s WaPo, there are other quotes from Rizzo and some points they make on the future of Turner.
We all know that Rizzo is not afraid of temporary position changes as we saw with Escobar and Espinosa in 2015 as well as with Rendon in 2014. We also know that Wilmer Difo could figure into the equation. What we don’t know is when Trea Turner arrives. Trea is not on the Nats 40 man roster, and that could affect his status as a potential September call-up.
For anyone who believed what Jim Bowden was projecting, Trea Turner would already be starting for the Nats at shortstop 18 days ago!
If Mike Rizzo wants Trea Turner’s speed on the bench for the Nats in September, he can find a creative solution to free up a 40 man spot for Trea Turner.
By the way, Turner responded Tuesday to his debut playing 2nd base with perfect defense and 2-5 batting with a stolen base, and on Wednesday night went 4-6 in a 13 inning game raising his average to .314. We will keep an eye on his splits if the sample sizes get large enough as some players actually play better in a less stressful defensive position, although many baseball analysts don’t believe in offensive upticks when defensive positions change. Yunel Escobar would tell you that his huge uptick in offensive production this year had no correlation with his move from shortstop to 3rd base between last year to this year (.664 OPS last year vs. .779 OPS this year).
With everything said, the most telling signs we will see on the future infield position for Trea Turner is where he plays in Spring Training. If Trea starts the 2016 season in the Minors to preserve his maximum team control, the position Trea plays in April on the Minor League side will foreshadow where he plays in the Majors in 2016, and which side of 2nd base he will be pivoting as a turner on the doubleplays.