The Nationals have one major position battle to watch this spring training and they are in pretty good shape with the candidates to choose from.
In Danny Espinosa they have a 28-year-old defensive specialist who last year proved he could also provide value with his bat. In Trea Turner they have a recent first round pick who could someday turn into one of MLB's more well-rounded players at the position.
Espinosa has been with the Nationals for six seasons, but will admit this year feels a little bit different given his offensive resurgence in 2015.
"It's a lot different now. I've talked to the staff and the front office. They have a lot of confidence behind me. They believe in me. For me to come in this spring and compete for that starting job, that means a lot. It's a lot different this year," he said.
Turner knows he has a shot at the starting job, but is also learning the ropes as a major leaguer. His most worried about what he can control and that is becoming a more reliable commodity in the big leagues.
"I need to let my teammates and coaches know what to expect from me; hustle, or whatever it may be, good attitude. I think that's the biggest thing, just being consistent," Turner said.
"I don't want to make errors for my pitchers. I want to have good at-bats. You're not going to get a hit every time, but the more times you can repeat your swing and the more you can field groundballs and complete the play, I think that's good for anybody. That's what I try to do."
Defense may be Turner's biggest area of concern at this point. He committed 11 errors in 44 games for the Triple-A Syracuse last season. In 99 total minor league games in 2015, he had 20 errors. Those numbers should improve as he gains experience, but he will need to cut down on those quickly to catch up to Espinosa, who is a very strong defensive player.
Daniel Murphy has a good vantage point of the battle between Espinosa and Turner. He is the starting second baseman and has been working with both players in defensive drills this spring.
"Danny and Trea have been crisp at short. I've grown accustomed to expecting Danny catch everything from playing against him. I know Trea has performed at every level he's been at. I think the nicest thing to look at is that this is a deep group of position players. It's always nice to have options no matter what," Murphy said.
Turner said he hopes to speak with Murphy - who was signed by the Nats this offseason - about hitting. Turner knows Murphy is one of the best in the business at hitting for contact and Turner wants to someday be known for the same. He also plans to work closely with assistant coach Davey Lopes, who is known for his baserunning expertise.
"Reaction is the biggest thing," Turner said of what he needs to improve on. "Reading pitchers and studying. The more you study, the more you know about a pitcher and the more relaxed you can be on the basepaths. When you're more relaxed you can have better reaction times because you can read stuff better. You can slow the game down."
Competing with a teammate is a dynamic the players say is not awkward. Espinosa said it does not feel unusual at all to be pitted against someone he is also expected to get along with.
"It's competing. It's just like when you're a kid and you compete with your best friends in the backyard. Whatever it was, whether it was baseball or if it was swimming, whatever it was. They can be your best friends and you're still going to compete. There's nothing wrong with that," he explained.
One part of the competition that will be interesting to watch is how long it takes the Nats to decide who wins. Will that be settled before, say, the setup role position? With Espinosa as the frontrunner at this point, the longer it takes, the better it is for Turner's chances.