The MVP of the 2016 Washington Nationals was Daniel Murphy with honorable mention to Wilson Ramos, but the clear MVP for the second half of 2016 was Trea Turner. There was not a more impactful player in the Majors other than Turner in that timeframe. Turner also showed his versatility with all of the defensive positions he played for the Nationals, and that versatility will be a key to the formation of the Nationals 2017 roster.
The Nationals’ general manager, Mike Rizzo, will be able to look for one to two key off-season acquisitions, and Rizzo can look at outfielders and infielders because Trea Turner can play shortstop, centerfield, and/or second base. Because of Turner’s versatility, Rizzo will have the flexibility to look at corner outfielders with shifting Bryce Harper to centerfield, true centerfielders, and middle infielders.
“I will play wherever they ask me to play,” Trea Turner said.
They asked him in Syracuse, and Turner did. Turner borrowed an outfielder’s glove from a teammate in Syracuse, and the Nats sent outfield coordinator Gary Thurman to Syracuse to get in some early work with Turner in centerfield away from the eyes of the media, and he learned the new position. Turner quickly adapted with only six games under his belt in centerfield when he was recalled in early July.
When Turner was promoted back to the Nationals before the All-Star break, Dusty Baker sat Turner on the bench. In fact when Baker did sparingly play Trea Turner, it was at 2nd base.
“Right now, Trea has to fit in where he get in,” Nationals’ manager Dusty Baker said previously. “Right now, there’s no real place for Trea to take. This isn’t a tryout camp. This is try to play the best team overall to win the game and win the pennant. Hopefully Trea will be a part of that while he’s here.”
Yes, this isn’t a tryout camp. Then an injury happened to Daniel Murphy’s hamstring in the All-Star game which gave Turner a chance to play some 2nd base. When Murphy returned, it was in Cleveland on July 26th when Baker finally put Turner in centerfield for his MLB debut. Why do it in a road game in an unfamiliar stadium? Also, Turner had not played centerfield for a few weeks since he was promoted from Syracuse. Was this to set up Turner to fail? Turner did not fail.
Turner borrowed an outfielder’s glove from Bryce Harper as Turner did not have his own. He played some solid defense including a key catch on the warning track. Turner’s speed was an asset even in his defense. He had make-up speed.
If you look closely at the embroidery on the right thumb of the glove that Turner got from Harper, it has Japanese writing. We tweeted a close-up picture of the glove to solve the mystery of what the embroidery was and several of our Twitter followers quickly responded and Greg Haraguchi had the answer:
it says bryce harper in japanese
— I'm old but not boomer old (@natscentral) October 5, 2016
Trea Turner held his own in Cleveland. With the bat, he had another breakout game against the Indians. Turner went 3-4 with 2 doubles and 3 RBIs against Carlos Carrasco in a key 4-1 win where Turner was the difference maker.
“If we could make [Trea Turner] more versatile and more valuable to us and play multiple positions, I think that just adds to his value,” Mike Rizzo said in July. “He’s got quick-twitch muscles; he’s got great first step in the infield. We think that with a little work, he could be a guy that we could put out in centerfield if we have to. It makes him more versatile and gives the manager more options to put a really good offensive player in there that can run and help you in a lot of different aspects of the game.”
Trea Turner played 45 games in centerfield, 30 at second base, but only 6 innings at shortstop for the Nationals in 2016. You have to find a spot for a player who finished his 2016 season with a slashline of .342 /.370/ .567 /.937. In his post-season debut, Turner batted .318. His speed was always a difference maker, and it was his bat and power that impressed with a .567 slugging percentage.
“As you can see, with his speed, he changes the game,” Stephen Strasburg said. “Changes how the defense plays out there when he’s on the basepaths. So, he’s impacting the game in a lot of ways and he’s fun to watch.”
Where Trea Turner plays in 2017 will be very much dependent on the off-season moves. Turner can clearly play almost any position on the field except catcher and pitcher.
We asked Trea Turner’s family for their opinions on which position Trea should be playing in 2017.
“He has been a shortstop for all of his career,” said Trea’s uncle Rick Morick. “High school, college, and the minors. The Nats need him to be their everyday SS. His quickness plays well at short. That’s what he wants.
We then asked Trea’s father, Mark Turner, his opinion on a switch to shortstop. Do you have any concern that Trea at shortstop would affect him negatively at the plate since shortstop is demanding physically but also mentally?
“No,” Mark Turner simply said.
Trea Turner’s family, coaches, friends and others are firmly supporting a move to shortstop for Trea, but he once again said he will play where his manager pencils him in. Trea won’t demand a position. He was a shortstop even when he was cut from his travel team when he was 14-years-old. You can’t take the shortstop out of him, but he is a team player and his only desire is to be an impactful starter. Even his critics continue to be wrong as they have questioned his arm strength, but that has not been an issue.
Dusty Baker went from saying “this isn’t a tryout camp” to hoping the fanbase would forget that quote. Trea Turner succeeded despite all the doubters. Trea will do it again in 2017 and prove the critics wrong.
AAA + MLB + NLDS Trea Turner played 161 games: 119 runs, 212 hits, 36 doubles, 16 triples, 19 homers, 59 RBI, 60 of 68 SB. .331/.382/.527.
— Thomas Boswell (@ThomasBoswellWP) October 16, 2016