The Atlanta Braves tried fastballs and changeups, sliders and cutters, in and out, up and down.

Whatever they threw, wherever they threw it, Trea Turner hit it. It got to be a little ridiculous—so ridiculous that when Turner came to the plate for the Washington Nationals on Saturday, Don Sutton called him “George Herman Ruth Turner” on Braves radio.

Turner had a big weekend at Turner Field—not named for him, the Braves insist. But Turner is having big weekends and big weeks everywhere, and it’s about time everyone realizes that while baseball is flooded with young stars, Turner is one of the best.

The Braves sure know it, after eight hits in 12 at-bats, including five for extra bases. That’s eight hits, seven runs and three stolen bases—all in three days.

“It’s tough to be back there catching with him hitting,” Braves catcher Tyler Flowers said Monday. “You really start to question if you know what you’re doing. But you know what, to this point, he really presents no weaknesses—at least none that anyone has found yet, us included.”

Turner was supposed to be good. He was a first-round draft pick and a top-five prospect, according to Baseball America. In spring training, the only question was how soon he would take over as the Nationals’ starting shortstop.

He still hasn’t, because Danny Espinosa has played better than many expected. The Nationals brought Turner to the major leagues as a second baseman and center fielder weeks before his 23rd birthday. He’s now established as their leadoff man and center fielder.

He’s become one of the best young players in the game, and he’s doing it playing center field, a position he barely played in the minor leagues.

Not that you’d know it.

“I saw him play shortstop in Triple-A, and I’ve seen him play second base and center field here, and he plays them all well,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He’s a baseball player. You could put him at first base, and he’d look like a first baseman. He could probably pitch if you needed him to.”

The Braves can’t stop talking about Turner, because he never stopped hitting against them.

His 1.424 OPS in 13 games was the fourth-highest anyone has had against a Braves team (minimum 50 plate appearances)—in Boston, Milwaukee or Atlanta. Only Willie Stargell (1.742 in 1971), Jason Thompson (1.460 in 1982) and Carlos Beltran (1.451 in 2006) were ahead of Turner, according to research done through’s play index.

Hall of Famers Rogers Hornsby (1.406 in 1923) and Frank Robinson (1.389 in 1962) were just behind him.

So yeah, he’s been good. And not just against the Braves, either.

Because the Nationals didn’t call him up for good until July, Turner won’t qualify for the National League batting title. But if you count everyone with 200 or more plate appearances, his .355 batting average entering play Monday was the best in the major leagues. His .967 OPS ranked fourth, behind David Ortiz (1.029), Daniel Murphy (.991) and Mike Trout (.990).

“They told me he was an impact player,” Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. “I was told that by Delino DeShields, who had him in the [Arizona] Fall League. You don’t hear that very often. He is an impact player, especially at the top of the order. He causes mistakes.”

It would be easy to say the Nationals made a mistake when they kept Turner in Triple-A for the first three months of the season, but they’re going to win the National League East anyway. He was there when they needed him, when Ben Revere and Michael Taylor had flopped atop the batting order and the Nationals needed someone else to lead off and play center field.

It didn’t matter that Turner was a middle infielder, a shortstop who had played some second base. Espinosa was doing fine at short, and Murphy was set at second, so Turner went and played where he was needed.

People who knew him weren’t surprised he could adapt, and they weren’t surprised he could handle playing for a first-place team in the big leagues. What they didn’t expect was the power.

Turner never hit more than eight home runs in any of his three college seasons at North Carolina State. He came to the plate 821 times in his first two minor league seasons and hit 13.

He didn’t homer in his first 76 major league plate appearances this season, either. Now he has 11.

“His hands are lightning,” Snitker said. “He’s a wiry, strong kid. He’s like a throwback.”

Yeah, he’s strong. When Turner hit a walk-off home run Sept. 9—his second homer of the game—’s Statcast estimated it traveled 440 feet, with an exit velocity of 106.7 mph.

And that wasn’t even against the Braves.


Danny Knobler covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

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