For our next positional preview we slide over to the hot corner. That’s where all-star Justin Turner lives. The Red bearded dreamster gave the Dodgers another MVP caliber season in 2017 and we can expect a similar campaign from the right handed hitting veteran. Turner is a holdover acquisition from the Ned Colletti era that literally went from rags to riches and morphed into one of the best third baseman in baseball.
His story is nothing short of incredible. He was a utility/bench player for the Mets when the Dodgers signed him before the 2014 season. He was expected to provide the Dodgers with insurance for second base and occasional playing time at third since the team had Juan Uribe entrenched at the position. Turner quickly established himself as one of the best hitters on the club having a fantastic 2014 season. Once Uribe was traded in 2015, Turner took over the everyday duties at third base. He’s been the Dodger’s top hitter ever since.
He’s not just the best hitter on the club, he’s been one of the best hitters in MLB and once again he “turned” in another sterling season for the Dodgers in 2017. The Dodgers rewarded him before the year started by signing the 33-year old to a team friendly 4-year 64 million dollar contract. So far Turner has lived up to every cent offered.
In 543 plate appearances in 2017 Turner slashed .322/.415/.530 with 21 home runs and 71 runs batted in. Turner’s plate discipline was otherworldly as he drew 59 walks and struck out only 56 times last season. Turner’s line drive power bat posted a .945 OPS and 149 OPS+ leading t a very well-deserved all-star nod.
If you don’t believe me about Turner being one of the best in the bigs, just take a look at his numbers. Out of all the third sackers in baseball he ranked first in wRC+ (151), first in batting (.322) first in OBP (.415), ninth in slugging (.530), and fifth in WAR (5.5) He also had the lowest strikeout rate (10.3%) of any third baseman in baseball. Not only does he get on base, hit for power, but he consistently makes contact, rarely striking out.
He hit .380 against left handers. He batted .325 at Dodger Stadium, and hit over .400 in two months (April, June) during the 17 season. He hit .300 with runners in scoring position and batted .348 on the first pitch of at-bats. Opposing pitchers should think twice before trying to groove a first pitch fastball by him.
Turner had a terrific postseason culminating with him sharing the NLCS Co-MVP honors with Chris Taylor. Then he tailed off in the World Series probably due to a sore hand and tight calf suffered in the series against the Cubs. He slugged .444 (6 for 13) in the NLDS against Arizona and then followed that up by going 6 for 18 with 3 runs scored, two home runs and 7 runs driven during the NLCS. Turner batted .160 (4 for 25) with a home run in the World Series. There is no doubt in my mind that a healthy Turner wins the World Series for the Dodgers.
We already know that Turner is an excellent hitter, but some people don’t realize how great of a defensive player he is. He finished with a +4 total zone fielding runs above average rating and tallied six defensive runs saved. In 121 games at third base, he committed only eight errors. He tallied 130 games total and other than missing a couple of weeks with a bad hamstring, he was able to spend most of the season on the field. For a player his age, that’s pretty good.
So Turner is awesome on both sides of the ball, but here’s the down side. The organizational depth at third base is so thin that it’s almost frightening. If anything were to happen to Turner in any way, or he were to be unable to play for any extended amount of time the Dodgers would be royally screwed. The options behind him are so unpalatable that it’s basically Turner or nothing. Let’s explore the dark side.
The Dodgers could always move Logan Forsythe over to third if need be, and we’ve already discussed this. However he didn’t hit much in 2017 and has limited experience (42 games in 2017) at third. Chase Utley is still a free agent, and Rob Segedin isn’t really much of an option. Enrique Hernandez could play there in an emergency as well but that’s not ideal. There is nobody in the minors that can step in and produce if Turner were to get hurt.
The Dodgers should get yet another all-star campaign from Justin Turner in 2018. He’s absolutely an indispensible part of the Dodger lineup because he’s their best all around pure hitter. He’s a great third baseman, team leader in the clubhouse and beloved by all fans. Just pray, and I mean get on your knees so you can pray to whatever god or deity that you believe in that he doesn’t get hurt. Because if he does, there’s not much talent behind him.