Trea Turner may only be 27 years old, but the Nationals’ shortstop is starting to look like a grizzled veteran playing next to all the college-aged position players that have graduated from Washington’s farm system over the last few years.
Juan Soto, Victor Robles, Carter Kieboom and Luis García all under the age of 24 and playing big roles for the Nationals in 2020 as they attempt to defend their World Series title. The most recent call-up is García, who is filling in at second base after Starlin Castro broke his wrist in Baltimore over the weekend.
Turner is the longest-tenured position player in the organization, starting the second-most games for the Nationals since his rookie season (464) behind only departed third baseman Anthony Rendon. After moving around the diamond his first year, Turner has since become a staple at shortstop starting 395 games at the position while all other Nationals players have combined for just 107 there since 2017.
However, the same can’t be said for second base. Turner has played alongside a revolving door of second basemen over the last four seasons. Seven players have made at least 10 starts at the position over that span, led by Daniel Murphy (169), Brian Dozier (113), Wilmer Difo (94) and Howie Kendrick (50). It’s required Turner to adapt to different playing styles of each infielder who’s come through.
“I’ve always said, I feel like every year I’ve kind of had a different guy for the most part,” Turner said after Saturday’s 7-3 loss to the Orioles. “We’re professionals. We know what to expect. Obviously, a little experience helps in the sense you just know where the ball is coming from and how they deliver the baseball to one another but for the most part if you hit each other in the chest, you’re going to turn more double plays.”
That partner was supposed to be Castro this year, but a broken wrist and uncertain timetable for his return has put the keys to the position in García’s hands. A prospect who was always lauded for his defensive prowess and ability to play multiple positions, the 20-year-old has impressed his new double play partner thus far.
“Him and Juan and Carter, they just play baseball and they know where to go with the ball, what decisions to make,” Turner said. “Obviously, they’ll make mistakes here and there but they learn quick and you can see from [García] that he’s made a lot of good plays already and it’s just a natural instinct that he has and sometimes you can’t teach that.”
Though Castro’s eventual return—whether that be this season or in 2021—may force García to move around, the Nationals are hopeful that the young infielder can develop into an everyday player. If Kieboom does the same at third base, Washington will have starters locked into three of its four infield spots until Turner becomes a free agent after the 2022 season.
Perhaps then, Turner will find some stability opposite him in the field.