Trea Turner‘s Role
Trea Turner projects to an All-Star leadoff man at the shortstop position. Danny Espinosa does not. Having moved on from Ian Desmond, the everyday shortstop for the past six seasons, the Nationals are facing a possible tough decision with the position this spring.
Turner is in a similar position to Taylor last season, but is slightly further along in his development. The San Diego Padres’ first-round pick in 2014 has batted .322 in two minor-league seasons. Triple-A pitching posed no problem for Turner last season, as he hit .314 in 48 games at the highest level of minor-league baseball. As a college player, Turner is close to a finished product. He could stand to benefit from additional time in the minors to work on becoming a more patient hitter at the plate and a better fielder, but it’s hard to quibble with the results Turner has had to date.
Espinosa was, at one time, a top prospect, but he has not delivered for the Nationals. He is a strikeout-prone, low-OBP hitter with a career .230 batting average. The one thing Espinosa does have going for him is his sure-handedness. He has made only 38 errors in 607 career big-league games.
It would not be the worst thing in the world for the Nationals if Espinosa were to win the starting job. He enjoyed a bit of a resurgent year in 2015, and should provide Washington with above-average defense and average offense. If Turner hits the cover off the ball in spring training, the Nationals may have no choice but to give him the job. If Espinosa wins the job, Turner should be ticketed for Triple-A, with Stephen Drew serving as the primary backup middle infielder.