Baseball Prospectus ranked Washington Nationals' shortstop prospect Trea Turner 13th overall on their list of the Top 101 prospects in baseball for the 2016 season, with their scouts writing that the 22-year-old, 2014 1st Round pick is a "very good runner" and a "solid defender" who can hit and, "should reach his rightful place before too long."
Turner was the fourth shortstop on BP's prospect list, behind the Los Angeles Dodgers' Corey Seager (ranked no.1 overall), the Philadelphia Phillies' J.P. Crawford (no.4) and the Milwaukee Brewers' Orlando Arcia (no.12).
MLB.com's Pipeline scouts had Atlanta Braves' prospect Danby Swanson, the top pick of the 2015 Draft, ranked ahead of Turner on their list of the top shortstop prospects in baseball, which was released yesterday.
Turner landed fifth on their list behind Seager, Crawford, Arcia and Swanson, with the write-up on the rankings noting that, "Turner's hitting ability and well-above-average speed make him a prime leadoff candidate, and he's a steady if unspectacular defender."
In 116 games and 500 plate appearances between Double-A in San Diego and Washington's systems and Triple-A in the Nationals' organization last season, Turner put up a combined .322/.370/.458 line with 24 doubles, seven triples, eight home runs and 29 stolen bases in his second pro season after the Padres drafted him 13th overall in 2014.
Traded to the Nationals in the three-way deal with the Padres and Tampa Bay Rays last winter, Turner was included in the deal as the Player to be Named Later though he wasn't dealt until mid-June, a year after he was originally signed by San Diego, as per the since-changed rules on dealing draft picks.
He made his MLB debut on August 21st, and in limited playing time went 9 for 40 with a .225/.295/.325 line a double, home run and two steals in 27 games.
Asked earlier this month where Turner fits in the organizational depth chart at this point, Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo said that the shortstop who, "'ranks right up there' with all the shortstops he’s ever seen," as Washington Post writer James Wagner reported, will get a chance to compete for the starting job at short this Spring with veteran infielders Danny Espinosa and Stephen Drew:
"We love competition. Trea’s gonna come to spring training with the rest of the big leaguers and compete for a job at shortstop, and we love the depth that we’ve created there," Rizzo said. "His talent level is extremely high, and we’ve got extremely high hopes for him, and we’re gonna develop him the way that he should be developed."
The likeliest scenario, as noted in a Fangraphs.com article by Brad Johnson on Wednesday examining the playing time battles on the Nationals' roster, is that Turner starts the season in the minors and comes up two months in:
"The service time game is a consideration. Turner accrued 45 service days last year. If Washington keeps him in the minors until sometime around June 1, they’ll gain an extra season of club control. More importantly, teams like to control as much depth as possible. If Espinosa, Drew, and Turner are comparably valuable in 2016, the team is better off rostering the veterans with Turner on deck as a call up. If Turner is on the roster, it may mean that Drew or another utility man isn’t."
Did the Nationals bring Turner up when they did last August to get him acclimated to the majors so it's not all brand new when he comes back up this season?
Earlier this winter, Rizzo talked about Turner's development when asked how close the infielder was to being an everyday major leaguer?
"I think he has to prove consistency," Rizzo told reporters at the Winter Meetings. "Defensive consistency and just logging some at bats.
"[Don't] forget, he only played one full season of professional baseball out of college, so he's been on a whirlwind tour of the development system and obviously he's got tremendous talent that allows him to do that and he's handled it terrifically."
Asked if Turner could earn the Opening Day job at short, Rizzo said, "I don't rule anything out."
"Trea showed us since we acquired him and really since we had interest in him in the draft that he's a quality player," Rizzo said at Nats WinterFest.
"That he was a fast-track type of player when he was in the draft and we feel that he's come a long way and is going to be a really good player for us."
When will the future arrive for the Nationals' shortstop of the future? If Danny Espinosa or Stephen Drew perform well and handle short, will the Nationals bump them from the position as soon as Turner's ready (or his service time is no longer a consideration)? Is there any chance he's the shortstop on Opening Day?