Welcome to 2023 Fantasy Baseball Trends: Trea Turner is Broken Since the WBC!
After Trea Turner finished 2022 as just the 15th player since the year 2010 with at least 20 homers, 25 steals, 100 RBI, and 100 runs, his projections were sky-high. He signed a $300,000,000 million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies. The hopes were that he would partner with Bryce Harper, JT Realmuto, and the Phillies' strong pitching core to get them over the World Series hump they just missed out on last season.
Moving to an elite hitters' park and just 29 years old, Turner was a consensus top-five fantasy pick again in 2023. After he absolutely smashed (five homers and 11 RBI) for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, Phillies' fans were riding high. But since then, his play has not come close to matching the spring and his last three years of production.
What is wrong with Trea Turner and what can we expect for the rest of 2023?
2023 Fantasy Baseball Trends: Trea Turner is Broken Since the WBC
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Trea Turner is Outside the Top 100 Batters in Fantasy Baseball
Feel free to check all the fantasy sites for yourself, but Trea Turner is not in the top 100 batters on any of them. He is 113th on ESPN, 122nd on Fangraphs, and 137th on Yahoo! (5x5 scoring). In fact, Trea Turner has better stats in his couple of weeks in the WBC than he has during his entire eight weeks with the Philadelphia Phillies.
Trea Turner still has more HRs and RBI in the World Baseball Classic than he does as a Phillie
WBC — Phillies —
6 Games 44 Games
5 HRs 4 HRs
11 RBI 10 RBI pic.twitter.com/130WkOvznB
— Phillies Muse (@Phillies_Muse) May 20, 2023
It's not like he has been absolutely atrocious with a .257/.300/.393 slash line, but after back-to-back seasons where he totaled 49 homers, 59 steals, 208 runs, and 177 RBI, a lot more was expected through 45 games. The power has disappeared. He has somehow combined the highest swing rate of his career with the lowest contact rate of his career as well. His swinging strike rate is more than five percentage points higher than it was in 2022. Add it all up and you are left with the lowest slugging percentage and ISO since his rookie year in 2015 (in just 27 games).
Turner likely has between 400-500 more plate appearances left this season to turn things around, but it's important to diagnose just where are the problems coming from. We noted the lack of contact rate already. But the other, larger problem, is that his power and hard-hit rate have basically vanished in the first two months of this season.
Trea Turner's Contact Rate and Hard Contact have Disappeared this Season
Contact rate has never been a problem for Trea Turner. He has consistently been well above league average in that department. He had a slight dip last season, but of course, everything looked back to normal in the spring. Then the regular season started and things fell off a cliff. Here are Turner's year-by-year contact rates courtesy of Fangraphs.
Not only is his contact rate poor this season, you might actually describe it as horrific through the first 30% of the season. Right now, Turner's 67.8% contact rate is exactly 10% below his career number (77.8%). I can't really see any way this number does not improve as the summer moves along. Just simple regression will help him immensely. Right now, Turner is 161st out of 168 qualified batters in contact rate. That puts him in the company of guys like Patrick Wisdom, Brent Rooker, Jazz Chisholm, and other wind machines in 2023.
Once that does turn around, expect the career-worst hard-hit rate to start improving as well. The better Turner sees the ball, the better contact he will make. The better contact he makes, the higher the likelihood of barrels coming off his bat. So far, his hard-hit rate (27.2%) is the lowest since that short rookie season in 2015. And his soft hit rate (21.3%) is the same story.
The hard hit rate might be on a troubling trajectory, but the soft hit rate has been consistently low. Is it the pressure of a new team? Is it living up to a $300,000,000 deal? Are pitchers throwing him junk, especially before Bryce Harper came back? Whatever the story is, Turner must improve his plate discipline dramatically and start taking more pitches and barreling up the ones that are hittable. With a launch angle much higher than it's ever been (16.1 degrees), it's possible Turner is pressing and trying to drive in every run with one swing. If he can get back to his line drive, fly around the bases days, this can start to look like a normal season for him.
What to Expect From Trea Turner the Rest of 2023?
The good news for Turner and his fantasy managers is that much of the rest of the under-the-hood numbers are looking good. His average exit velocity (88.4 mph) is just a tick under his career average (89.4 mph). His ground ball rate (39.7%) is well below his career rate (46.1%). Turner is walking six percent of the time when his career is right around seven percent. And his 19% line drive rate in 2023 matches his career number. Turner just simply has to start making more consistent contact with the ball first. After that, the power should return.
Trea Turner is in too good of a home park to let this streak continue for too much longer. Over the last three seasons, Citizens Bank Park has been the sixth-best park of right-handed offense in the majors. It also is seventh in home runs to right-handers and plays consistently short out to left field. The pedigree and the park are what give me complete confidence that Turner's season is going to turn around soon.
Anyone who invested a top-five pick in Turner this spring knows that the counting stats with the steals and runs will be there, but as the summer heats up, the power and RBI should soon follow.
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