In his chat on Monday, Thomas Boswell was asked about Espinosa’s performance vis-a-vis when Trea Turner would be called up. His response (quoted below) is thought provoking:
How long can his ability to get hit with pitches keep Turner in AAA?
A: Thomas Boswell
Espinosa had two homers in St. Louis and three hits on Sunday. And he’s fielding nicely (.978) though not spectacularly. With normal Batting Average on Balls in Play he’d be “as expected” __.230-.240.
But Turner is the SS of the future. It looks like Turner is learning the K-zone better at AAA. It shows up in his K-ratio and his K-to-Walk ratio. He’s IMPROVING, though his batting average is the same. So, maybe, some more time down there actually helps the last stage of his career development.
Let me note that Turner has done very well at AAA the last two years __in ’15-and-’16 combined at Syracuse in 300 ABs (equivalent to half-a-season) he’s hitting .317 with 58 runs and 26 steals. Yet it’s likely that he will probably, like most players, drop down an offensive level __maybe as much as 100 OPS points__ when he gets to the majors.
That’s the mystery of the jump from AAA to MLB. Most drop. Some by a LOT (think of Tyler Moore, a AAA slugger). But some don’t __at all. I won’t bore you with too many numbers. But if Turner has that 100-pt OPS drop when he gets to MLB then, believe it or not, his offensive value at .707 OPS would be close to Espinosa’s career mark. (Yes, Turner also has 40+ steal speed.)
Why do you keep Turner at AAA when he’s hitting .317? Because you want him to learn dozens of little things __tricks of the professional’s trade that you can pick up at AAA __ that allow him to be a .290 hitter (or .310 hitter!??), not just another unpolished .260 hitter__ when he takes over the job for many years.
Let me use Derek Jeter as a perfect example of letting a fast-arriving player have an extra 200-300-400 at bats in AAA even though he doesn’t seem to need it. (No, Turner isn’t Jeter. But the AAA-to-MLB comparison is a beauty.)
In ’94, Jeter hit .349 at AAA in 126 ABs. He was a huge prospect, picked high in the draft __The Future Yankee SS. Even BELOW AAA Jeter had gotten 1300 plate appearances and hit as high as .377 and .344 in different leagues.
Why the hell are the Yankees keeping this guy Jeter in the Minor Leagues???
Yet in ’95, they sent Jeter back to AAA for the WHOLE minor-league season (558 PA). He was getting the last level of polish so his MLB performance would be as close as possible to his AAA performance.
That’s exactly what the Nats have to decide about with Turner now.
How did it work out with Jeter?
In that extra full year at AAA, his batting average and OPS were .317 and .816. The next year, at 22, as a Yankee rookie, he played every day and hit .314 with an .800 OPS. SAME PERFORMANCE despite the jump up to MLB. He was totally ready. For his whole career, Jeter hit .309 with a .817 OPS. (His on-base and slugging numbers were the same, too, from his last year in AAA to Rookie of the Year to his whole Yankee career.) For reference, Turner is now 22.
You can’t PROVE that an extra 300 or 500 PA at AAA had a darn thing to do with Jeter’s ultimate level as a hitter. But you sure can look at it and think, “That is VERY interesting. Can an extra 1/2 year in AAA help a player over the next TWENTY years of his career. Don’t know. But it might.”
I want to see Turner, too. But I also want to see the best possible Turner for the longest possible time.
Suffice it to say that there are lots of differing opinions on:
- When do fans, analysts, writers think he will be called up
- When Rizzo and Dusty decide to bring him up
An important factor is both how well Danny is playing as well as the team. Danny’s slash line splits are clearly trending in the right direction:
|Last 7 days||.304||.385||.478||.863|
|Last 14 days||.255||.333||.468||.801|
|Last 28 days||.232||.333||.354||.687|
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table Generated 5/12/2016.
And here are his complete splits. The question is whether this is real or a tease. There are 17 games between now and May 30 (not counting May 30) for Danny to show whether this is real or a tease.
And for those of you who know how to, or want to, compare apples and oranges here is Trea’s slash line for 2016 (could not find splits): .306 .376 .427 .803
Whenever Trea is called up (May 30 or sometime later), there are lots of ways to manage playing time for the current starters once you add Trea to the mix (yes, ignoring Drew and Clint for now). Each calendar week averages a tick more than 6 games. So lets do some what-if with a 6 games a week schedule. Six games and 4 infield positions gives us 24 starts to be shared among 5 players. One approach is 4 guys get 5 starts (one day off a week) and one player gets two days off. Ryan Z would certainly benefit from a day off a week. So who is that guy who gets two games off?
- Maybe it is Zimmerman – more rest could be a good thing to keep him healthy.
- Maybe it is Espinosa – he provides lots of options as a sub since he can (and has) played every infield position as well as left field. Plus he is probably the emergency catcher.
- Maybe it is Turner – clearly the most valuable as a pinch runner. Consider the game where Ramos is on first and the Nats are one run down. You send in Turner and there is a very good chance he is on second after a pitch or two. And he certainly scores from first on a double
- and so on, and so on
And if you want to throw Clint/Drew into the mix (recognizing that one of them may not be on the 25 man roster), if you give each of them one start a week, you now have 22 starts to split among five players. So perhaps two get one day off a week (5 starts) and the other three get two days off (4 starts). Bottom line: lots of options.
Regardless of what opinions are expressed here (or elsewhere), the Rizzo and Dusty are the deciders. We all just hope they make the right decision for both the short- and long-term.
Please express your opinion both in the poll (multiple choices allowed) as well as in the comments.