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Trea Turner: “People tell me [to hit the ball on the ground]. And I’m like, ‘Shut up.'”

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Nationals outfielder Trea Turner, formerly the Padres’ first-round pick in the 2014 draft, has bolted out to a .537 slugging percentage in 224 plate appearances since a mid-season call-up. But what has impressed both fans and teammates more than his power has been his speed. As Jorge Castillo of The Washington Post reported earlier this week, Statcast measured Turner at 22.7 both from home to first on an infield single and from home to third on a triple.

Turner’s baseball coach from North Carolina State, Elliott Avent, texts Turner every time he hits a home run urging him to bunt for a hit more often. Consultants advise Turner to hit the ball on the ground more. Turner says, “People tell me that. And I’m like, ‘Shut up.'”

Turner is already at 2.4 WAR this season, according to FanGraphs, over a full season, that projects to a nearly seven-win season which would put him in the MVP conversation with the likes of Kris Bryant and Corey Seager. If he had enough plate appearances to qualify on leaderboards, his .537 slugging percentage would put him in the top-20 in baseball. And his .192 isolated power, which is slugging percentage minus batting average, is more than 40 points better than the major league average for center fielders.

Plus, it isn’t as if Turner hasn’t been using his speed at all. He has 21 stolen bases in 24 attempts for an exquisite 87.5 percent success rate. His stolen base total prorates to over 60 over a full season’s worth of plate appearances. According to Baseball Reference, Turner has taken the extra base — first to third, first to home, second to home, etc. — 53 percent of the time, well above the 40 percent league average. Turner has even stolen third base three times, more than the Cardinals as a team (two) and nearly as many as the Dodgers (four).

Some people seem to fetishize non-power baseball as if it’s somehow superior. But the facts are clearly in: power baseball rules. It’s the most efficient way to score runs. Not only does a home run score as many base runners as there are on base, it requires only one event to do so whereas a team would need to string together three singles on average — or a single, a stolen base, and another single — to score one run.

Using weighted on-base average, a Sabermetric statistic that individually weights each way a player contributes offensively, we can clearly see how much more valuable a home run is than a single. Using FanGraphs’ “Guts” page, we see that in 2016, a single is weighted .878 while a home run is weighted 2.009. If Turner were to focus on hitting balls on the ground more, he would have to hit more than two times as many singles for every one home run he loses in doing so. To be clear, that’s on top of his current rate. And to be fair, it’s not quite that cut and dry, because singles can lead to more stolen base opportunities, but Turner would still have to ramp up his attempt rate by a lot. Stolen bases are weighted at .200 by wOBA.

In short, Turner’s doing it right, and he’s right to tell those attempting to get him to change his game to shut up.

Casey Kelly signs with the LG Twins in Korea

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We wrote a lot about Casey Kelly on this site circa 2010-12.

It was understandable. Kelly was a big-time draftee for the Red Sox and famously split time as a shortstop and a pitcher in the minors, with some people even wondering if he could do it full time. The Sox put the kibosh on that pretty quickly, as he became the top overall prospect in the Boston organization as a pitcher. He then made news when he was sent to San Diego — along with Anthony Rizzo — in the famous Adrian Gonzalez trade in December 2010.

He made his big league debut for the Padres in late August of 2012, holding a pretty darn good Atlanta Braves team scoreless for six innings, striking out four.  He would pitch in five more games in the season’s final month to not very good results but missed all of 2013 and most of 2014 thanks to Tommy John surgery.

He wouldn’t make it back to the bigs until 2015 — pitching only three games after being converted to a reliever — before the Padres cut him loose, trading him to the Braves for Christian Bethancourt who, like a younger Kelly, the Padres thought could be a two-way player, catching and relieving. That didn’t work for him either, but I digress.

Kelly made a career-high ten appearances for a bad Braves team in 2016, was let go following the season and was out of the majors again in 2017 after the Cubs released him a couple of months after he failed to make the team out of spring training. He resurfaced with the Giants this past season for seven appearances. The Giants cut him loose last month.

Now Kelly’s journey takes him across the ocean. He announced on Instagram last night that he’s signed with the LG Twins in the Korean Baseball Organization. He seems pretty happy and eager about it in his little video there. I don’t blame him, as he’ll make $1 million for them, as opposed to staying here and almost certainly winding up in a Triple-A rotation making $60K or whatever it is veteran minor leaguers make.

This was probably way too many words to devote to a journeyman heading to play in Korea, but we so often forget top prospects once they fail to meet expectations. We also tend to forget all of the Tommy John casualties, focusing instead on the Tommy John successes. As such, I wanted to think a bit about Casey Kelly. I hope things work out well for him in the KBO and a baseball player who once seemed so promising can, after a delay, find success of his own.