This free agent’s speed changes the game. Here’s how

November 21st, 2022

This is the right offseason for Trea Turner to be a free agent, because his game-breaking speed is about to be more valuable than ever.

Turner's true elite speed already gives him a skill that separates him from all the other top free agents in this year's class, and notably, the other top free-agent shortstops. And with rule changes coming to MLB in 2023 that should encourage more stealing -- bigger bases that will reduce the distance between them, limits on the number of pickoff throws -- the team that gets Turner will get an even bigger competitive advantage at the top of the lineup.

Notable free agents by 2022 sprint speed
Trea Turner -- 30.3 ft/sec
-- Elite speed threshold: 30+ ft/sec --
Brandon Nimmo -- 28.7 ft/sec
Dansby Swanson -- 28.4 ft/sec
Xander Bogaerts -- 27.9 ft/sec
Jean Segura -- 27.7 ft/sec
Willson Contreras -- 27.6 ft/sec
Aaron Judge -- 27.3 ft/sec
Carlos Correa -- 27.1 ft/sec
-- MLB average speed: 27 ft/sec --

The 29-year-old is by far the fastest free agent, and he's in the best position of any free agent to take advantage of those rule changes next season. So let's take a look at how Turner's speed changes the game.


Turner, a two-time league leader in stolen bases, is a hugely successful base stealer. This season he was 27-for-30 on steal attempts, a 90% success rate.

Turner's ability to accelerate to an elite top speed even when just going base to base makes him extremely difficult to catch. On nearly a third of his stolen bases in 2022, he reached the elite 30-plus ft/sec speed threshold. He had twice as many steals at elite speed as anyone else.

Most SB with 30+ ft/sec sprint speed, 2022
1. Trea Turner: 8
2. Julio Rodríguez: 4
3. (tie) Bubba Thompson / Terrance Gore: 3
5. (tie) Byron Buxton / Tim Locastro / Jorge Mateo: 2

Now pitchers are going to be limited in how they hold him on, and he's going to have 4 1/2 less inches to run, which seems small, but with stolen bases decided by fractions of a second, maybe those 4 1/2 inches make the difference for one of the fastest players in baseball. Turner could be even more difficult to catch than he was before.

Let's look at the plays where Turner had to rely on his speed to steal the bag -- say, the top half of his stolen bases, so we're not including ones where he got a huge jump, or the catcher didn't get a throw off, and he didn't need to run all-out. 

His average sprint speed on those "max-effort" steals was an even 30.0 ft/sec. He was the only base stealer to average elite speed on the top half of his runs. 

Fastest avg. "max-effort" SB sprint speed, 2022
Min. 5 SB
1. Trea Turner: 30.0 ft/sec
2. (tie) Bubba Thompson / Tim Locastro: 29.9 ft/sec
4. Julio Rodríguez: 29.8 ft/sec
5. Garrett Mitchell: 29.7 ft/sec
"Max effort": Player's top 50% of SB


Turner is a top-tier free agent because he's established himself as an elite power-speed threat and one of the most consistent hitters around, with a .302 career batting average and a 2021 batting title. 

That batting average is really a product of his speed, not just his bat.

Turner uses his speed to get a lot more hits. The stat sheet doesn't tell you that, but the Statcast data does. This season alone, Turner got 34 hits where he reached an elite 30-plus ft/sec sprint speed, over 1 1/2 times more than any other hitter.

Most hits with 30+ ft/sec sprint speed, 2022
1. Trea Turner: 34
2. (tie) Bobby Witt Jr. / Jake McCarthy: 21
4. Amed Rosario: 20
5. (tie) Bubba Thompson / Jorge Mateo: 18

And Turner does this every year. Let's look at the last three seasons, over which time Turner leads the Majors with 467 hits. On 77 of those hits, he's had a sprint speed of 30 ft/sec or faster. That's more than double the number of elite-speed hits of any other player since the start of the 2020 season.

Those hits can be either infield hits where a slower player than Turner might be thrown out, or a double or triple that a slower player than Turner might not be able to stretch -- 13 of his hits with a 30-plus ft/sec sprint speed are extra-base hits.

Most hits with 30+ ft/sec sprint speed, last 3 seasons
1. Trea Turner: 77 (13 XBH)
2. Amed Rosario: 35 (2 XBH)
3. Jose Altuve: 31 (0 XBH)
4. Jorge Mateo: 30 (12 XBH)
5. Starling Marte: 29 (3 XBH)

Either the hit comes from his speed, or the hit becomes a better hit because of his speed. The team that signs Turner isn't just signing a fast base-stealer, they're signing a fast hitter. That's important.