It's a really unique situation that we find Trea Turner in. Drafted out of North Carolina State with the 13th overall pick in last year's draft, Turner signed quickly, just eight days after the first round occurred. He was sent to the Padres' affiliate in the Northwest League shortly thereafter, but the event with the biggest impact on his career (so far) occurred almost 1,000 miles away in his organization's front office, where the man that drafted him, Josh Byrnes, was relieved of his duties on June 22nd. We'll get to more on that later.
Turner didn't hit for a high average in his 23 games in Eugene, but did steal nine bases and walked nearly 11% of the time, and was promoted to the Padres' full-season Low-A affiliate in Fort Wayne to finish the year. The performance there was excellent, hitting .369/.447/.529 with four home runs and 14 stolen bases in his 46 games there. Once the season ended, is when his career path shifted slightly.
The Padres hired Texas AGM A.J. Preller to be their new general manager, and Preller has spent the offseason trading almost anyone he could that was drafted or signed by the previous regime. The net result of this for Turner was his involvement in a three-team trade where he will head to Washington. However, the rules of baseball transactions are not that simple.
The transaction rules, in an effort to keep teams from trading draft picks, have been set up such that no player who is drafted can be traded until one calendar year from the date of his signing a contract. Normally, a player-to-be-named-later is included in a trade if a team really wants to make that move, but it's extremely rare. It's even more rare that the player ends up being a top draft pick, and that the player's identity is known almost from the outset. It has happened in the past, with Drew Pomeranz traded to the Rockies a little more than a year after the draft, but the Indians only had to hold onto him for about two weeks before sending him on his way. The Padres will keep Turner for another three months, until mid-June.
What does this all mean for his development? Until yesterday, we had the potential that the Padres would keep him in extended spring training, essentially putting him on ice in order to keep him safe from a potential injury. However, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reported late yesterday that not only will the Padres send him out to an affiliate, but they will skip a level and send him straight to AA San Antonio. Whether this is what the Nationals would have done that isn't really all that relevant, and by the time he moves to their organization in June he could have already shown that he can handle the level in the first two months.
So what exactly are the Nationals going to be getting once Turner reports to them in June? Turner can potentially be one of the top leadoff hitters in the league, and could be a top 10 shortstop in a number of years. His profile starts with his elite-level speed, which should provide fantasy owners with stolen base totals of 30+ each year, and potentially as much as 45-50 some years. While the speed would be enough to provide value for fantasy owners, it's not all Turner can bring to the table.
He has already posted both a high batting average and high on-base percentage as a professional, but does have some work to do to reach his highest potential overall. There were reports from his professional debut about some contact issues, which would limit the utility of his speed overall. With that said, his approach at the plate is considered solid, and should be at least average in terms of batting average. He also adds a little power potential, with 7-10 home runs being possible most years. The part of his game that will help Turner the most in terms of fantasy value may be his defense and specifically his eligibility. A shortstop in both college and so far as a professional, the reports on Turner's defense lead me to think he will be at the position for at least a few years as a major leaguer.
The fact that the Padres are moving Turner aggressively before he switches to the Nationals leads me to believe that he could be in the majors at some point in the 2016 season. Current shortstop Ian Desmond will be a free agent at the end of the season, and if Turner reaches AAA this year, could be in line to start a year from now. It's possible that Turner could move to second base if Desmond is re-signed, but with the commitments the Nationals already have, I'm not sure I see that as a realistic possibility. While Turner's situation is one of the more unique one, his overall potential doesn't really change much with the trade. If anything, he may be helped slightly by moving from Petco to Nationals Park in the long-term. I think he's being a bit undervalued right now, in part because of that limbo and in part because the profile isn't necessarily a loud one. I have him as my #81 overall fantasy prospect, and I think he can be into the top 50 fairly easily by the end of the year.