Though a hamstring strain early in the season, and a fractured right wrist, the result of a hit-by-pitch in late June, limited Trea Turner to 98 games this summer, the 24-year-old shortstop still managed to set a new Washington Nationals’ franchise record with 46 stolen bases on the year in 2017.
He also became just the eighth player in MLB history to drive in seven runs in a game while hitting for the cycle, and was the second-youngest player to do so, with only Joe DiMaggio, “... who hit for the cycle and knocked in seven runs against the Washington Senators back on on July 9, 1937,” doing it at a younger age than Turner according to Elias Sports.
In his third season in the majors, Turner put up a .284/.338/.451 line with 24 doubles, six triples, 11 home runs, the 46 steals, and 105 wRC+ in 447 plate appearances, over which he was worth 3.0 fWAR.
So what did we learn about Turner in the injury-shortened campaign?
Now-former Nationals’ skipper Dusty Baker was asked in mid-September what it told him about Turner that the shortstop was able to set the franchise mark for steals in just 98 games, topping Alfonso Soriano’s 41 SBs in 159 games in 2006.
“That tells me that I’d like to see him all year,” Baker said. “He’d probably steal 70 or 80, you know what I mean? It’s just a matter of him staying healthy.”
After Turner homered on the first pitch of a game against the Atlanta Braves a few days after setting a new Nationals’ record for steals, Baker was a little more effusive in his praise of the young shortstop, comparing him to one of the best leadoff hitters in the history of the game.
“That’s Rickey Henderson-type stuff,” Baker said, “because Rick was the best at that, you know, if you walk him or he gets a hit then it’s just like a double or a triple, and if you throw it right there then he’d leave the ballpark on you, so that’s quite a feat so young in [Turner’s] career. But you have to have discipline to do that, get a good pitch to hit, and people always say don’t swing at the first pitch, but tonight it worked for him and us.”
Though it took him a little time to get back up to speed after missing 51 games with the injury to his wrist, Turner finished strong with a .297/.371/.525 line, 11 of his 24 doubles, two of his six triples, four of his 11 home runs and 11 of 46 steals in a 30-game, post-DL stint stretch from late August through the end of the regular season.
“He’s a huge catalyst for us,” Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies in an early October interview.
“We go as he goes,” Rizzo said. “When he’s on base consistently we’re scoring a lot of runs and it puts a lot of pressure on the other team, it not only affects what Trea Turner does on the bases, but it also affects the way other guys are being pitched with him on the bases, and he scores a lot of runs, and when he’s on in front of our potent middle of the lineup I think that we’re going to be offensively efficient, I think that we’re going to score some runs, and give our pitchers a chance to win this thing, so he’s a huge part of our team.”
Though his numbers at the plate were impressive, and his speed on the basepaths is a game-changing weapon, Rizzo pointed to the work Turner did at short too, noting that the infielder erased the doubts some scouts had when the Nats handed Turner the job at the start of the 2017 campaign.
“What’s often overlooked because he’s so fast and so offensive-orientated, is that he’s playing terrific defense,” Rizzo said.
“This guy’s range is as good as anybody’s in the league,” the GM continued. “[Turner] put to rest all the questions about he doesn’t have the arm to play short in the big leagues, and he’s turned into one of the real great all-around middle infielders in the game. He’s a huge part of what we’re doing, I know the middle of the lineup just loves when he gets on base because he just causes havoc and they change kind of pitching sequences to account for him on the bases.
“He can take a fastball and hit you a big home run, and the best thing for me is when he hits that ball in the gap and watching him fly around the bases is just like poetry for me. He’s fun to watch run, and he’s really a spark plug for us.”
Turner struggled to get on base in the postseason, however, going 0 for 13 with five Ks before he connected for his first hit in Game 4 of the five-game NLDS matchup against the Chicago Cubs.
Turner had a big game in the fourth game of the series though, with a double, two walks, and a run scored in the season-extending win in Wrigley Field.
“I felt good because I'm at the top of the lineup to get on base, kind of start things,” Turner told reporters. “I haven't done a good job of that this series.”
One hit got him feeling more comfortable again though.
“To have one fall felt good. Tried to get the ball rolling. I think more people on base, the better it is for us. I would like to get over there a little bit more.”
Turner wrapped up his season with a two-hit game in the series finale with the Cubs which left him 3 for 21 overall in the postseason.
It was a disappointing end to a somewhat disappointing 2017 campaign, only because he missed so much time. Maybe in 2018 we’ll get to see what Turner can do with a full season’s worth of at bats.