WASHINGTON – For the past few weeks, Juan Soto, Trea Turner, and Bryce Harper have been the top three hitters for average in the National League.
Much has been made of the fact that the trio were all teammates for part of 2018 – after young sensation Soto was called up from Double-A in May of that year.
Overlooked, however, is that Soto, Turner and Harper all played for Double-A Harrisburg on their rise through the minors on the way to Nationals Park.
And each of them worked at some point with Troy Gingrich, who is one of the few in player development with Washington that can make that claim. Gingrich is a California native who played in the minors with Montreal and spent part of 2001-03 at Double-A Harrisburg as an outfielder.
Then he got to see the three superstars make their way to City Island.
“All three of those guys are such great people,” Gingrich, 44, a long-time hitting coordinator in player development, wrote to Federal Baseball this week.
Soto played just eight games with Harrisburg in 2018, after he began the year at Single-A Hagerstown.
The lefty slugger hit .323 with the Senators before he was promoted to Washington on May 20th of 2018 - after veteran Howie Kendrick injured his achilles tendon while chasing a fly ball in left field at Nationals Park.
“The first time I saw him was in the Dominican Republic after he had signed and he was unique there because taking BP he never swung and missed and didn’t foul a ball off,” according to Gingrich, who has been in Instructional League this week with the Nationals.
“He hit every ball up the middle and to left field,” Gingrich added of Soto. “His barrel was in the zone forever and that day I knew he was going to be someone special. It had a different sound off his bat for a kid that age.”
Gingrich was the coordinator in 2015 when the National landed North Carolina State product Turner as the player to be named later in a three-team trade with San Diego and Tampa Bay.
Turner, drafted by San Diego and now with the Dodgers, played in just 10 games with Harrisburg in 2015 and hit .359 with the Senators.
His first game with the Nationals came on August 21, 2015.
“He finally got to us halfway through 2015 and got to see him in Double-A and he moved through our system fairly quick,” Gingrich noted. “He just had the knack of staying on the ball and also keeping his barrel through the zone a long time.”
Harper spent the most time of the three on City Island - all of 37 games in 2011. His Major League debut came at the Dodgers on April 28, 2012.
“I was with him in Harrisburg and in Syracuse the following year when he went to the big leagues,” added Gingrich, a long-time resident of the San Diego area. “He was amazing with the violence that he swung with and the torque that he created in his body and the ability to control his body and put himself in a position to hit at such a young age was impressive.”
“And to see him still doing it the same way and grow as a person and turn into who he is now is awesome to see,” Gingrich added of the 2015 MVP in the National League.
As of Wednesdays night, Soto and Turner had the NL’s best average at .325, with Soto the second-highest (.318), and Harper at .310 (tied for 3rd in the NL with Nick Castellanos) as the Phillies were eliminated from the playoff chase on Tuesday.
Soto won the National League batting title in 2020, and an MVP award may be in his future as well – and Gingrich was able to see the three National League All-Stars before they made it to the Navy Yard neighborhood.