The Next Christian Yelich of 2019?

With all of the talk about Harper leaving the Nationals and signing with a different team, the Nationals do not seem to be too worried.  The break-out of young Juan Soto along with guys like Anthony Rendon and up and coming prospect Victor Robles would make the Nationals pause to pay Harper a big contract.  One of the most silent stars in all of baseball who could take over the spot light is shortstop Trea Turner.  After breaking out in 2016 after his mid-season call up where he accumulated a 3.3 WAR in just 73 games, he was going to have high expectations for future seasons.  For a guy who people were excited about seeing his speed on the bases, he can also handle the bat with the best of them.  Sure he has stolen 89 bases over the past 2 seasons , but he had hit for a 104 wRC+ in 2017 and 105 wRC+ in 2018.  We will look at ways in which Turner is poised for a huge 2018 and why he could maybe be this year’s Christian Yelich.

A couple years ago people always associated Yelich as the player who hit the ball hard and if he would only elevate and pull the ball he could be a big time power guy.  Unknowingly, Trea Turner has kind of been similar.  Here is Yelich’s and Turner’s ground ball rates in 2016 and 2017:

                            2016                             2017
GB% FB% K% BB% GB% FB% K% BB%
Yelich 56.50% 20.00% 20.90% 10.90% 55.40% 25.20% 19.70% 11.50%
Turner 43.10% 31.70% 18.20% 4.30% 52% 33.50% 17.80% 9.30%

Turner is already hitting more balls in the air than Yelich ever has.  The strikeout percentages and walk percentages are very similar between the two.  Surprisingly in 2018 Yelich still hit over 50% ground balls.  The difference is that when Yelich hit the ball in the air in 2018, he barreled them up more frequently.  In 2017 before his MVP season Yelich had a 4.7 Barrels/PA% which ranked 151st in the league whereas in 2018 he had 8.9 Barrels/PA% which was 16th in baseball.  He also hit the 5th most balls above 95 mph in 2018.  Now, back to Trea Turner.  In 2018 he ranked 179th in baseball with 4.2 Barrels/PA%, however he was 10th in the league in terms of number of balls hit over 95 mph:

Only Nick Markakis had more balls hit above 95 mph with less Barrels/PA% than Turner.  Turner is just slightly smaller than Yelich but has shown he can barrel balls about about the same.  In addition, Turner is already hitting more balls in the air than Yelich.  Yelich hit 36 home runs this season with the 6th lowest launch angle in the league at 4.7 degrees making his 35% HR/FB ratio incredibly unsustainable.  In fact his HR/FB ratio ranks 3rd highest since 2002 just behind 2017 Aaron Judge and 2006 Ryan Howard.  Only Yelich was doing this with a launch angle of just 4.7 degrees!  Trea is very unlikely to have THAT good of a season however, the fact that he has been able to barrel balls gives him a great shot at increased power numbers.  Turner is also one of the best defensive shortstops in the league posting a 10.4 defensive rating on Fangraphs which is 8th best among shortstops.  In addition he is a top base-runner in the league and will consistently be atop the leader board in stolen bases as he has the 6th best sprint speed according to Statcast.

Trea Turner likely will not be Christian Yelich because, well, not even Yelich will be Yelich next season due to such a high HR/FB ratio and high BABIP.  He will still be really good, but not THAT good.  What Turner lacks in the power department he more than makes up for in defense and base-running.  The Nationals are loaded with really good ballplayers, and Turner is going to be their MVP if not the NL MVP.  If he can continue to Barrel up balls and run the bases the way he has been, he could easily have an 8+ WAR season ahead of him.  Do not be surprised if the most silent star in MLB will no longer be so silent.


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3 thoughts on “The Next Christian Yelich of 2019?

  1. Yes, Trea Turner has all the tools. I think this is a year when he will be a MVP candidate with strong hitting, power, fielding, and base stealing. He is a ready to take a big leadership role with the Nationals.

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