Widely considered the best team in baseball entering the season, the Nationals have lost 14 of their past 20 games, to go from three games up to four games behind in the National League East. Seeking a spark, they called up shortstop Trea Turner on Friday.
It's not immediately clear where and how often Turner, ranked No. 2 on the Nats' Top 30 Prospects list, will play for Washington, though presumably the club didn't add him to its 40-man roster to have him watch from the bench. Shortstop Ian Desmond, likely to depart as a free agent in the offseason, slumped in the first half but has led the Nationals in homers (four) and RBI (13) this month. Second baseman Anthony Rendon, who finished fifth in NL MVP Award voting in his first full big league season in 2014, has battled injuries and ineffectiveness this year -- and Turner did play his first two pro games at second base on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Turner, 22, ranks 12th on MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects list. In his first full pro season, he has hit .322/.370/.458 with 39 extra-base hits (including eight home runs) and 29 steals in 116 games between two Double-A stops and Triple-A Syracuse.
The North Carolina State product signed with the Padres for $2.9 million as the 13th overall pick in the 2014 Draft. Turner came to Washington as the player to be named in a three-team, 11-player trade last December that saw the team give up Steven Souza Jr. and fringe left-handed pitching prospect Travis Ott to the Rays to get Turner and Joe Ross from the Padres -- a deal that looks more and more like a steal for the Nationals.
Turner couldn't officially switch organizations until June 14, the one-year anniversary of his first pro contract. MLB since has changed its player-to-be-named rules, allowing all prospects to be dealt after the end of the World Series.
Turner's best tool is his well-above-average speed -- some evaluators give it an 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale -- and Turner immediately becomes the best stolen-base threat on a Washington club that ranks 25th in baseball with 48 swipes. More than just a speedster, he has some surprising pop for a 6-foot-1, 175-pounder, and a decent eye at the plate.
Turner can stick at shortstop and likely will play there for the Nationals in 2016, though he won't win any Gold Gloves. He has solid range and arm strength, but he needs better defensive consistency. Washington had Danny Espinosa and Rendon learn second base on the job in the Majors, so it won't be a surprise if it does the same with Turner.
Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com and writes a blog, Callis' Corner. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.