WASHINGTON—It did not take long for Trea Turner to ingratiate himself in the nation’s capital.
After just 136 career games, Turner’s peach-fuzzed mugshot is right there alongside them.
“It was cool first time I saw that,” Turner said. “I don’t know if I necessarily dreamt of it as a little kid to have my face on billboards or whatever it is, but I guess it means I’m doing something right.”
The 23-year-old shortstop has done a lot right in his career. He was an elite performer at every level—high school, college, the minors—and is continuing that trend in the majors.
Turner took baseball by storm last year by hitting .342 with 13 homers, 40 RBIs and 33 stolen bases in just 73 games as a rookie. Though his offensive numbers have been much less impressive on the surface this year—he entered Friday hitting .237 with a .670 OPS—he is still hitting the ball hard. His 90.6 mph average exit velocity this year, per Statcast, still ranks among the 50 best in the game, ahead of such luminaries as Robinson Cano, Jose Bautista and Michael Conforto.
Turner’s trademark lightning speed was slowed somewhat by hamstring tightness that put him on the disabled list for two weeks in April, but he is still 11-for-12 in steals this year and on pace to swipe 38 bags.
“Just a really talented player with a lot of ability and he hasn’t even scratched the surface,” said first baseman Adam Lind, a 12-year veteran. “He’s one of the best talents I’ve seen. He’s got all parts of the game.”
Where Turner has elevated his game even more this year is playing shortstop. A shortstop at North Carolina State and all the way through the minors, Turner deferred to veterans Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa during his callups in 2015 and 2016, splitting his time at second base and center field.
Back at his natural position, he has played an above-average shortstop by FanGraph’s Defensive Runs Saved metric, and his .985 fielding percentage is third-best in the National League.
“He has a lot of feel. I think a lot of people didn’t believe he could play that position,” said Nationals center fielder Adam Eaton, who got a birds-eye view of Turner playing shortstop before going on the disabled list with a torn ACL. “But . . . it’s so pretty, it has rhythm to it, and honestly I think it should be every poster for a kid that’s coming up as an athletic shortstop. What’s cooler than coming in on a hard chopper and jumping mid-throw and getting the guy by two steps? It’s a pretty cool picture. He’s a model for any athletic shortstop as well as hitter.”
As his young career continues to progress, Turner is increasingly justifying his placement beside the Nationals’ greats.
“I guess it was a little surprising all the success I had, but I expect a lot out of myself,” Turner said. “I just try and control the baseball part of it. That’s all you can control. Whatever the marketing people do, that’s up to them.”