In 73 games in the majors this season, Trea Turner put up a .342/.370/.567 line with 14 doubles, eight triples, 13 home runs and 33 stolen bases in 39 attempts over a total of 324 plate appearances.
He finished the season at 3.3 fWAR, behind only Wilson Ramos and Bryce Harper (tied, 3.5 fWAR), Anthony Rendon (4.7) and Daniel Murphy (5.5), fourth in WAR amongst all of the Washington Nationals, though he played significantly fewer games than everybody above him on the list.
Turner earned the NL Rookie of the Month award in each of the last two months this season, then got an opportunity to play in the postseason for the first time.
Nationals’ skipper Dusty Baker told reporters before the start of the NLDS matchup with the Los Angeles Dodgers that he hoped it would be a good learning experience for the 23-year-old infielder/outfielder.
“I’m hoping he handles it great, but I think he’ll handle it great,” Baker said.
“He’s been unfazed so far. He’s come here and just played and that’s what I urged him to do: just play. Just play ball the way God’s given you the ability to play. So far he’s handled it great. Even his mistakes he’s handled it great.”
“He’s learned from his mistakes,” the Nats’ skipper continued.
“You don’t see him making the same mistake too often, especially in a short period of time. We don’t have to tell him things over and over and over. That’s what frustrates a coach is when you have to tell a young player a number of times in a short period of time. So far he’s been outstanding.”
Dave Roberts, LA’s manager, who was a coach with the San Diego Padres when they drafted Turner in the 1st Round in 2014, got a good look at the young shortstop-turned-center-fielder when the Nationals and Dodgers played one another in July.
He was asked before the start of the NLDS what he remembered about the Nationals’ rookie and what improvements he’d seen from afar.
“I think he's become a lot more comfortable being a Major League player,” Roberts said.
“And we've all known how dynamic he is as a player. I think he's become a lot more aggressive at the plate and he's playing a different position.
“I think he might have just started playing center field, maybe. So he's probably a little bit more comfortable out there right now in center field.
“But at the plate, he's aggressive. But you just see the confidence. And even seeing him when he first signed, when I had him in Spring Training, he was a confident young man, and you know, obviously the skill set, the speed plays.
“But he's a baseball player, so I think a big part of our success is going to be keeping him off the bases.”
Roberts said he had limited interaction with Turner while the two were in the Padres’ organization, but he did share what little he remembered from the time the two spent together in Spring Training in 2015.
“He's a great kid,” Roberts said. “Good worker, can really run, defend, throw, and he checks all the boxes, wanting to learn. And we spent some time together, actually, on stealing bases and talking about the bunt game.“
“I talked to him a little bit in Spring Training,” Turner recalled, when he talked to the press during the NLDS.
“I was in big league Spring Training for a brief period of time, maybe a couple weeks. I remember having a conversation with him about base stealing. I think it was very brief. I wish I would have gotten a chance to talk to him more because you can always pick up something from those guys.
“Each and every day, I learn something a little bit new from Davey [Lopes], just the way he thinks, situational stuff. Sometimes it's technique.
“I think Dave Roberts is the same way. He's a great guy and I enjoy talking to him and I enjoyed getting a chance to know him when I was over there. Kind of wish I could have done it more.
Roberts said he was impressed by how far Turner had come in a relatively short period of time.
“You know, just to see him now, very happy for him, very excited,” Roberts said. “Not a surprise, because he's just so level-headed and a very confident young man.
“You just see the strength. He's a lot stronger than I remember him. Sky is the limit, I think, for us going into this series, keeping him off the bases was, you know, probably top of the list.”
Turner went 0 for 3 with a walk and a sac fly in Game 1 of the NLDS. Baker said after the game it was another good learning experience.
“Every game you play in the playoffs,” Baker explained, “it helps you towards gaining experience and gaining some knowledge and also some relaxation. I mean, it's hard your first playoff. The whole world's eyes are on you. A lot of these guys are used to playing in front of TV and the world, but, yeah, I'm not going to critique his every game.
“Everybody at some point in time is where Trea is right now. Whether you're 30 years old or whether you're 23 years old, everybody had their first playoff. And I think this is -- we were standing on the line last night during the introductions, and I said, ‘Hey, man, this is going to be one of many for you.’
“And he said, ‘Yeah.’ So this is the sort of hopefully, you know, [the first of] many playoffs for him.”
It wasn’t just managers praising Turner during the Division Series.
In an interview before Game 5 of the NLDS, Ryan Zimmerman talked to reporters about what he had seen from Turner over the young infielder’s first two seasons in the majors.
What stood out for Zimmerman?
“I think his baseball IQ and his ability to make adjustments as a young guy,” he said.
“And I've said this all year, and I don't mean this in a bad way to other really fast players, but most really fast players are in the big leagues because they're really fast.
“They might not necessarily be the greatest hitter or the greatest route runner or whatever, but their speed kind of makes up for their shortcomings.
“I think Trea is the complete opposite. He's a baseball player that even if he wasn't fast, would be in the big leagues, but he just so happens to be an 80 runner, and when you have that kind of combination, it's pretty special.”
Turner ended up going 7 for 22 (.318/.333/.318) with two stolen bases, a walk and 11 Ks in 22 PAs in five postseason games.
Baker talked before the series finale with the Dodgers about what he thought Turner could take from the run in the NLDS to apply to the rest of his career.
“I think it's going to help him tremendously, not only this year, but in ensuing years,” he said.
“Once you've been there and you know that you can do it there, that adds to your confidence. I mean, and he's come a long ways from a few Minor League games to starting in center field and batting leadoff in a game of this magnitude.”
“The thing about Trea,” Baker reiterated, “he's a quick learner. I've said this before; and usually you don't have to tell him the same thing over more than once in a short period of time.
“These are the kind of guys that are easy to coach. The guys that have some knowledge on their own but also have the ability to learn and then to apply it on command in a short period of time. You know, he's one of those guys.”