ESPN.com's Keith Law stirred up a long-running debate (if a seven-month long debate can really be considered "long-running") with his comments on Washington Nationals' shortstop prospect Trea Turner in his write-up on the 22-year-old infielder, who debuted in the majors last August and today landed at no.28 on Law's list of the Top 100 prospects in baseball.
"Turner should be the Nats' Opening Day shortstop," Law wrote, "regardless of all the veterans currently on the roster. He's the best defensive option the team has and probably will post the best OBP of anyone they've got."
With his plus speed, high contact rates and hand-eye coordination on the offensive end and "athleticism and quick feet" in the field, Law says that while Turner may not be a star, he could be an everyday shortstop in the majors for years to come.
Should the Nationals risk losing a year of team control in the future by having him start the season in the majors after Turner accumulated 45 days of service time in the majors during what Law describes as his "... brief and confusing big league cup of coffee late in 2015," or should they use Danny Espinosa and Stephen Drew at short until mid-June to gain another year of team control of Turner in the future?
While the Nats' decision to call Turner up to the majors and not use him much did confuse and frustrate some, now-former manager Matt Williams and Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo explained the thinking behind calling him up early and using him sparingly rather than leaving him in the minors to finish out his first full season as a pro.
"Trea's here because, one, he can get some experience," Williams explained in an MLB Network Radio interview in late August.
"He's done everything at every level that he needs to do. Again, he's a new player for us. We want him to get to know everybody, because hopefully in the future he's a valuable piece of our direction and our team."
"His minor league season would have been over very soon anyway," Williams continued, "and to give him some opportunity at the big league level will do nothing but help him."
"The thought process there was simple," Rizzo said in his own late-season appearance on MLB Network Radio.
"We had a plan for Trea. Don't forget, this is his first full professional season. Trea Turner has had plenty of at bats this year. He's played plenty of baseball. We felt that it was important for him to get to the big leagues because these are going to be his teammates in the near future and for a long time after that.
"We wanted him to get a feel for the big leagues and a taste for the big leagues, always knowing in our minds that he's played plenty of baseball for his first full professional season."
In 116 games split between Double-A in San Diego and Washington's systems and Triple-A with the Nationals, Turner put up a combined .322/.370/.458 line with 24 doubles, seven triples, eight home runs and 29 stolen bases in 35 attempts.
He made his major league debut in August and played a total of 27 games with the Nationals, going 9 for 40 with a double and a home run in 44 PAs.
The plan was to send Turner on to the Arizona Fall League for extra at bats, but the Nationals decided against that course of action so that he could instead focus on building strength.
"We felt that he was better served going with his personal trainer and working out rather than going to the Fall League and having more at bats," Rizzo explained when asked the change of plan at the Winter Meetings in early December.
"We figured that because he played more at the end here in the big leagues that that made up for the at bats. He had plenty of at bats for his first full, professional season."
So, will he be the Opening Day shortstop in D.C.?
"I don't rule anything out," Rizzo said then.
In mid-December, the Nationals' GM was asked again how close Turner was to being ready to play every day in the majors?:
"Trea [Turner] showed us since we acquired him and really since we had interest in him in the draft that he's a quality player 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."
Turner will get a chance to compete for a spot in Spring Training, when he, Espinosa and Drew compete for the Opening Day job at short.
"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, as quoted by Washington Post writer James Wagner.
"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."
Will Espinosa start the season at short? Will Drew somehow win the job? Will Turner start the season in the majors, or will he come up in June so the Nationals gain an extra year of team control?
It's a debate that will likely continue until the end of Spring Training...