WASHINGTON — Trea Turner can do, almost literally, anything on a baseball field.
The 23-year-old rookie piles up hits, having collected 87 in his 58 games with the big-league team this year en route to a .349/.369/.558 line.
His hits come in all forms, with nine home runs highlighting a catalog that also features six triples and 13 doubles.
The man known as Trea Burner steals bases at an alarming rate, with 26 swipes on 30 attempts.
He plays all over the place, having played shortstop, second base and center field for the Nationals this year.
As soon as the Nationals need a position player to take the mound late in an extra-inning game, who would honestly be surprised if Turner stepped up and struck out a batter?
Turner added to his legend on Friday night in Atlanta, when he and the Nationals rolled to a 7-2 win against the Braves. He went a cool 4 for 5 with a home run, a double, four runs scored, two RBIs and two stolen bases in the game, but he struck out once and committed an error in the field (just his third all season), so he wasn’t technically perfect.
It’s hard not to be impressed by what the rookie is doing. Here’s Nationals pitcher and Cy Young Max Scherzer on Turner after Friday’s game:
“This guy can absolutely do everything, and with the speed. I’ve never seen anybody have this much speed and this much power from that frame. It’s unbelievable what he does.”
“We were able to put up five runs in the first two innings. Trea’s got his fingers all over it again.”
Scherzer correctly points out one of the most important things Turner has brought to Washington — a valuable leadoff hitter.
Since taking over the everyday leadoff spot, Turner has manufactured runs for the Nationals at an incredible rate, especially in the first inning. He has scored 15 runs in the first frame of games this year, despite a mere 55 plate appearances — a rate of one run on 27.2 percent of plate appearances. Compare that to league leader Jean Segura, who has 32 first-inning runs in 135 plate appearances — one run every 23.7 percent of plate appearances.
Sure enough, Turner did his thing in the first inning on Friday. He opened the game with an infield single on the sixth pitch of the at-bat, then he made it to third on a single by Jayson Werth and scored on a single by Anthony Rendon.
Turner’s excellence as a leadoff hitter is a significant part of why the Nationals lead MLB in first-inning runs this year, with 112, and are second behind the Boston Red Sox in first-inning batting average, with .303. He is personally hitting an astounding .453 in the first inning this year, and he’s actually stolen more bases (9) than he has struck out (8).
In the second inning on Friday, Turner took the sixth pitch of the at-bat deep, extending the Nationals’ lead to four with a two-run, 415-foot shot to center field.
He struck out the next time up, but his fourth go-round might have been his most impressive. He singled on the first pitch of the at-bat to lead off the seventh inning, then he stole second. Werth then lined out to right field for the inning’s first out and Daniel Murphy came up to the plate. Four pitches later, Turner stole third base. Two pitches later, Murphy hit a sacrifice fly to left field, scoring Turner. Bryce Harper then grounded out to end the inning.
Let’s recap for a second. The Nationals scored a run in an inning that looked like this: single, line out, fly out, ground out. There were no errors and no fielder’s choices.
There are only a handful of players in the sport that can do something like that, especially after homering earlier in the game. For reference, only nine other players in MLB have at least as many home runs (9) and stolen bases (26) as Turner, and all but two have played in at least twice as many games as Turner has. The other two — Jarrod Dyson (96) and Hernan Perez (109) — have each played considerably more games than the Nationals’ speedster (58).
(In Turner’s next and final time up in the game, he smacked a ground-rule double.)
He hasn’t played enough to qualify, but if he had, he’d be tied with Josh Donaldson for the sixth-best slugging percentage (.558) in baseball. The players ahead of him — David Ortiz, Daniel Murphy, Brian Dozier, Nolan Arenado and Kris Bryant — all have at least 25 home runs, and only one of them (Dozier, with 15) has stolen 10 or more bases.
That’s all to say: There’s nobody like Trea Burner in baseball.