Trea Turner: Shortstop Prospect on the Move

Trea Turner has his sights set high. The 2014 first-round pick wants to be more than the starting shortstop for the San Diego Padres [or, if last night’s reports are accurate, the Washington Nationals]. Turner wants to be a star.

He could have been a Pirate. Pittsburgh drafted Turner out of high school in 2011, and the now-21-year-old had no trouble picturing himself in black and gold. He told me the Pirates personnel he spoke to during the draft process were “awesome” and that he still keeps in touch with the area scout. Turner said he’d have “loved to be a Pirate,” but “needed to go to college and make myself better both mentally and physically.”

Turner enrolled at North Carolina State, and excelled. In three seasons with the Wolfpack he hit .342 and stole 110 bases. His junior year, he won the Brooks Wallace Award as the best shortstop in college baseball.

Along the way, he received plenty of attention from scouts.

“The scouting process was way, way different than it had been in high school,” Turner told me during his recent Arizona Fall League stint. “Going into my junior year at NC State, I talked to basically every single team. It was a longer process and a lot more involved.”

According to the young infielder, “Different teams had different ways they went about the draft. Some had me take tests. Some made me meet with doctors or psychiatrists. There were different tactics to find out what kind of person you are.”

In the opinion of Billy Gasparino, San Diego’s scouting director at the time, Turner is unassuming and possesses great makeup. Gasparino said the Padres “weren’t major players on the psychological testing end,” but the organization did “pinpoint 30-40 guys every year to test.” Turner was among them, and he graded out plus plus.

Playing in Arizona was a testament of Turner’s makeup. Upon being drafted, he told the Padres he wanted to go to the AFL after the regular season was over. His objective was to see how he stacked up against top prospects and to prove he could play at a high level. He felt that was important because his goal is “to move up as fast as possible.”

Gasparino – now the scouting director for the Los Angeles Dodgers – loved the talent every bit as much as the makeup. He saw Turner as “a dynamic lead-off type with everyday-shortstop defensive ability,” who should “hit for average and steal bases.”

That’s exactly what the speedy right-handed hitter did in his professional debut. Splitting the season between rookie-league Eugene and low-A Fort Wayne, he hit .323/.406/.448 and swiped 23 bases. Defensively, he handled 248 chances and committed just four errors.

Turner went deep five times between his two stops, and considers himself more than just a burner. He told me he has more power than some people give him credit for. Gasparino doesn’t disagree.

“He’s wiry strong,” said Gasparino. “When he takes BP, the ball comes off his bat much better than expected. I don’t think he’s ever going to be a serious home run threat, but I can definitely see him hitting 8-10 home runs, which would be great at his position.”

Turner aspires to be great. The postulate future National wasn’t willing to compare himself to anyone in the big-leagues, but he did shed some light on his ambitions.The role models he cited aren’t exactly run-of-the-mill.

“There are obviously players I want to be like,” said Turner. “There are guys like McCutchen and Trout who can do a little bit of everything. I go out there trying to evolve every part of my game, and hopefully one day I can be a complete player too.”

David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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9 years ago

Make like a trea and get outta here.