Is Trea Turner Properly Valued? (2019 Fantasy Baseball)
Trea Turner’s average draft position in 2018 was fourth overall. Odds are, if you drafted Turner this high, you were disappointed. Despite the fact he played 162 games, Turner saw his average fall to the lowest mark since 2015 (when he only played in 27 games), his steals fall below his 2017 mark (when he only played in 98 games), and his home run total did not even reach 20. All of these figures were disappointing based upon what Turner had shown before the 2018 season. In fact, going off of what he did in 2017, owners surely expected Turner to reach at least 60 stolen bases if he stayed healthy like he did.
Now, let’s not rag on him too much. Turner is still going at the end of the first round in 2019 drafts, so it’s not like his stock has dropped much. But, let’s be honest, anytime a 25-year-old player’s stock drops at all from one year to the next, it’s not encouraging.
Let’s take a look at his stat line from 2018 overall.
Turner finished the year like this: .271 AVG, 19 HR, 73 RBI, 103 R, and 43 SB over 162 games played. That’s not a shabby line whatsoever. Admittedly, however, it’s not a line that warrants a fourth overall pick.
So, that makes two questions arise for Turner’s stock in 2019. First, will Turner’s stat line marginally improve? Next, what will that mean for his draft value in 2019?
Let’s examine Turner’s average
Turner’s 2018 .271 average fell 13 points from 2017 and was a far cry from his .342 average in 2016. Oddly enough, many of Turner’s peripheral statistics actually went up in 2018. His on-base percentage, hard hit rate, and line drive percentage all rose. To top this off, Turner’s strikeout percentage went down. Typically, those can all be pretty good indicators of a player’s average.
No doubt, it seems like Turner was a victim of a bit of bad luck in 2018. Another thing that expresses that? Turner’s infield hit percentage took a sharp dive in 2018. It was nearly a six percent decrease from when he entered the league in 2015. For a guy with the speed of Turner, that makes a massive difference in batting average. Yes, Turner is hitting the ball harder now than he was in 2015, but that alone should result in a higher average. The numbers just don’t add up.
As we all know can be true in baseball, though, the unlucky bounces might have been an evening out of good luck from past seasons. So while it seems no doubt that Turner was unlucky last season, we have to also admit he may have gotten lucky in prior seasons.
What does this mean for 2019? Turner seems in line for a marginal increase in his batting average. He’s potentially in for enough of an uptick to make a big difference in his stat line. A .290 batting average seems readily in play for Turner this year.
There’s not much to say about Turner’s home run line
Turner is one of only a handful of MLB players who doesn’t seem to be dramatically changing his swing to hit home runs. Obviously, this is because of his speed, and as fantasy owners, you just have to live with it. Turner’s fly ball percentage stayed nearly identical in 2017 as 2018, and don’t expect it to change much in 2019.
The good news? As is with all young players, it’s possible Turner continues to find his power stroke and increase his home run totals. Still, it would be a shock for Turner to reach anything over 25. If Turner is healthy all year and hits the 20-home run plateau, you have to happy, plain, and simple.
What about runs and RBIs?
Assuming Bryce Harper doesn’t end up back in Washington, it’s tough to imagine Turner’s runs or RBIs increasing by a marginal amount. Washington has an odd mix of washed-up veterans and fresh young faces.
Sure, I expect Turner’s average to rise. There’s also the chance that Washington’s young outfielders catch fire and propel their offense. However, there seems to be a better chance that guys like Brian Dozier, Ryan Zimmerman, and Adam Eaton don’t produce enough in the middle of the lineup for Washington to be any better than they were last year.
Couple that with the fact that Turner actually played 162 games last year for the first time in his career, and it’s going to be hard for him to up his runs and RBIs by enough to make a difference. 110 runs and 75 RBIs seems like a good target for Turner in 2019.
How about the category that matters most to Turner: Steals?
Strangely enough, Turner just ran less during the 2018 season. In 2017, Turner ended up attempting a steal on over 12% of his plate appearances. In 2018, Turner only attempted a steal on 6.9% of his plate appearances. That’s a dramatic slash for a guy who was caught stealing only nine times throughout the whole 2018 year.
Could the huge cut be because of more extra base hits? Nope. Turner only had 11 more extra-base hits in 2018 than 2017, while he had 52 more singles last season! Based upon his numbers, there’s no reason why he should have run less.
There’s only one thing left to point to: the manager. Dave Martinez took over as the Nationals manager between the 2017 and 2018 seasons, in correlation with Turner’s decreased running numbers.
So what’s my theory? I think Martinez did not like to run into potential outs with Bryce Harper at the plate. Most of the season, Turner hit right before Harper (whether it was one-two or two-three in the lineup). This was something completely different from the 2017 season, where Turner always led off, and Harper always hit third. From a manager’s perspective, the 2017 lineup would present significantly more running opportunities for Turner.
Now, in 2019, Bryce Harper is most likely gone from Washington, and I think Trea Turner is going to run wild. Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto are good hitters, but neither one is Bryce Harper. There’s no reason to withhold Turner from running to keep the bat in someone’s hands anymore. Without Harper, this is Turner’s team, and 60 steals could absolutely happen.
What does all of this mean for Trea Turner’s draft stock? It means that his stock is right where it needs to be. Last season, the fourth overall pick was an optimistic stretch. This season, if someone lets Turner sneak out of the first round, snatch him up as a heck of a “steal.” Sorry, I couldn’t resist.
FantasyPros has him ranked 10th, while his ADP is eighth. With a realistic potential stat line of a .290 AVG, 20 HR, 75 RBI, 110 R, and 60 SB, Turner is set to flip the script from last year and make those who draft him towards the end of the first round very happy owners.
Alex Altmix is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Alex, check out his archive or follow him @Altmix_23.