WASHINGTON -- There are three players pictured on the side of a new promotional truck, branded the #Natmobile, outside of Nationals Park. One of them is Bryce Harper, the 2015 National League Most Valuable Player and not only one of the faces of the Nats, but all of Major League
WASHINGTON -- There are three players pictured on the side of a new promotional truck, branded the #Natmobile, outside of Nationals Park. One of them is Bryce Harper, the 2015 National League Most Valuable Player and not only one of the faces of the Nats, but all of Major League Baseball. The second is Max Scherzer, Washington's ace who could win his second Cy Young Award this season.
The other? Trea Turner.
Turner has played just 73 games in the Majors this season, but he has already positioned himself among the faces of the franchise. His exciting style of play featuring a mix of speed, athleticism and surprising power has helped carry the Nationals into the postseason, which will begin Friday (5:30 p.m. ET on FS1) at Nationals Park when the NL Division Series begins against the Dodgers.
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"When Trea came, Trea gave us another weapon, another element," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "I mean, here's a young man batting leadoff that drove in 40 runs and hit 13 home runs and stole 30 bases in half a season. He had tremendous, tremendous impact on our lineup, and it had a lot to do with us winning.
"He's a combination of speed and power which is rare these days. You don't know if he's going to top one, bunt one, get a walk, steal and the opposition doesn't know either so they're going to try to get ahead of him. They don't want to get behind him because they don't want to walk him because of his speed, so one complements the others."
The Nationals have no questions about how Turner will react to the spotlight of the postseason, because he has been unfazed by everything thrown at him this season.
When Washington needed a center fielder and a leadoff hitter, Turner converted from shortstop and received a crash course in the outfield -- six games at Triple-A Syracuse -- before he was inserted into the everyday lineup in Washington on July 19.
Since that point, Turner has played like a NL MVP Award candidate.
He slashed .342/.370/.567, while stealing 33 bases and playing solid defense in center to post 3.5 Wins Above Replacement (WAR). He won the NL Rookie of the Month Award in both August and September, and had Turner been in the Majors since the beginning of the season, he almost certainly would be challenging for the NL Rookie of the Year Award with Los Angeles' Corey Seager, the presumptive winner.
And perhaps the most surprising aspect of Turner's play this season is his power. He hit 13 homers in 307 Major League at-bats after hitting just six in 331 at-bats in the Minors.
"I think it hasn't really set in," Turner said of his rookie season. "It's still different being here everyday and knowing I'm not going anywhere for the most part and there's no place to move up to. In the Minor Leagues, you're worried about moving up to the next spot and the next spot, and it's kind of weird that this is the destination. Now it's staying here. That hasn't really set in yet."
The more Turner looks like a star, the more it makes the Nationals' trade seem like one of the biggest steals in recent memory. In December 2014, Washington acquired Turner and right-hander Joe Ross from San Diego as part of a three-team trade, in which Steven Souza Jr. was sent to Tampa Bay and the Padres got Wil Myers.
"Yes, I did think he would be this good," Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said with a laugh. "We traded for him for a reason. We really liked him. Our scouts did a great job identifying him as a player of interest in the Padres' organization. He developed very quickly, but very well in our Minor League system, and he's come up here with a great attitude and a willingness to learn, and obviously a skill set that plays up here."
Sometimes it seems as if Turner enjoys surprising people with his skills, whether it's the wide smile on his face as he rounds the bases after launching a homer, or comes up with a diving catch in center field. Or when he pulled off a delayed steal in September after he noticed the defense relaxing after he did not take off with the pitch.
Turner won't be able to take the Dodgers by surprise during this series. However, slowing him down will be a much different task.
"I think he's become a lot more comfortable being a Major League player," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "We've all known how dynamic he is as a player. I think he's become a lot more aggressive at the plate. ... But you just see the confidence. Even seeing him when he first signed, when I had him in Spring Training [with the Padres], he was a confident young man, and you know, obviously the skill set, the speed plays. But he's a baseball player, so I think a big part of our success is going to be keeping him off the bases."
While playing college baseball at North Carolina State, Turner remembered hearing a coach talking about how freshmen always worked the hardest because they were afraid of losing playing time. Turner has tried to carry that same mentality throughout his career, and he still feels that way now as a rookie -- even if his face is already among the stars of the franchise.
Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.