2011 Evaluation: Justin Turner
The biggest competition in Port St. Lucie last March was at second base, where Luis Castillo, Dan Murphy, and Brad Emaus auditioned for the starting position. Oh, there was mention of Justin Turner, but the scrappy utilityman was written off fairly early; even the names Luis Hernandez and Chin-lung Hu were ahead of Turner on the depth chart. Mainly because he still held an option, it was a foregone conclusion that Turner would start the season in AAA and be summoned only if some kind of catastrophe occurred at the keystone.
In fact, the Mets were so certain of how things would turn out in the middle of the infield, Emaus was listed as their second baseman on the MLB All-Star ballot.
Funny how the best laid plans of mice and Mets often fall astray …
You know the story: Castillo was given just enough of an opportunity to fail and was subsequently released; Emaus never made the All-Star Game; Hu lasted about as long as an Abbott and Costello routine; Hernandez fizzled within 48 hours; Murphy’s defense was just too shaky, and he shifted over to 1B after Ike Davis‘ injury; and, by the end of June, the catastrophe was complete, with Turner the last man standing.
Personally, I was rooting for and advocating Turner from the start. Though, I also was pulling hard for Emaus, who looked disturbingly overmatched. Hey, Justin Turner is no Jeff Kent, but the Mets could have done much worse – and there are plenty of fans who appreciate what Turner brings to the table.
From a statistical standpoint, Justin Turner does not impress. His .690 OPS is too low, he doesn’t walk enough, and his defensive metrics say he’s below average. If you are one who evaluates baseball players strictly on stats, then you likely found Turner to be an unacceptable solution at second base.
However, here is my view of Turner using "old school" analytics, beginning with defense. His range is average at best, but he rarely ever misplays what he gets to; his ability to turn the double play from both sides of the bag is about average; his arm is above-average in terms of strength and accuracy, he rarely throws to the wrong base, does a good job on relays from the outfield, and knows when NOT to throw the baseball. Offensively, he is an expert bunter and reliable hit-and-run man; goes the other way well; has good idea of the strike zone; is a strong situational hitter; has only slightly above average speed but makes the most of it with good baserunning instincts, hustle, cutting the bases well, and good jumps.
Two things disappointed me from Turner in 2011: his walk total and lack of homerun power. I didn’t expect a .400 OBP and 20 HR, but I did think he’d be in the .350 OBP range with a few more taters than 4. However, he did mash 30 doubles in only 435 at-bats, which is encouraging. Maybe playing home games in a smaller park would have resulted in more homeruns. As for the walks, I wonder if he would have had more had he been called on to bunt and hit and run less often, or if he was in a different position in the lineup, rather than batting second / behind Jose Reyes for the bulk of his starts? In the 103 plate appearances (granted, small sample) when he batted anywhere else, his OPS was well over .700. Hmm …
It seems that the Mets brass would prefer to see Dan Murphy win the second base job, so once again Turner goes into spring training as the backup plan. Personally, I think Turner is still, currently, the Mets’ best option at second – at least until Reese Havens remains healthy enough to get more seasoning and/or Jordany Valdespin grows up.
Turner may or may not be good enough to be an everyday second baseman; I’d be curious to see him play another full year at the position, but further down in the lineup, to see what might happen. I believe his ceiling is somewhere between Mark Loretta and Mark DeRosa, which isn’t too awful. Actually, now that I’m thinking about it, Turner reminds me a lot of Ty Wigginton‘s first year as a Met — a hard-nosed hustler full of piss and vinegar; though, Wiggy showed more power and less discipline at the plate.
Turner just turned 27, so he is moving into the prime of his career. If it were up to me, Turner would be penciled in as the Mets’ starting second baseman going into spring training; in other words, his job to lose.
You can’t put Murphy in the outfield either…..remember?
Yes I remember how bad he was in LF. What makes you think horrific defense at 2B will be less noticeable?
So … Mets have an opening at 2B and Murphy doesn’t have a position, therefore, Murphy plays 2B. That’s logical how? Hey, working on that logic, why not put Murphy at shortstop or behind the plate?
1. The Mets need offense and they need it badly with Jose Reyes gone and black holes in LF, CF, SS, and C they need a strong bat at 2B to help compensate. Turner is never going to be more than a .260 hitter with limited power. Murphy has proven he can hit .300 with 35+ 2B and should be good for around 15 HR and 65-80 RBI depending on where he hits.
2. As for the defense, I will allow that Turner is better than Murphy. At this point. However, I feel that Murphy can be carried as the regular 2B based on who is flanking him on the IF: Tejeda at SS and Davis at 1B. Both players have above average range and are capable of covering what ground Murphy may not. With proper instruction and enough work Murphy could become an adequate 2B until Havens is ready.
Now, those points lead me to this: the Mets should very defintely ship Turner to the Rockies for Eric Young, Jr. if they have the chance. Young can play 2B/OF whereas Turner is primarily a 2B. Young gives you a little more versatility, plus superior speed on the bases.
As for last season, he would have made sense from the start, but they had a few other options to try out. He was a steady presence when it was his job but later was likely playing hurt. As to HRs, didn’t really expect anything from him in that department. No one really hit them after all.
He looked worn down to me toward the end, but generally speaking, he looked like a gamer who was a good addition to the team. Like Murphy, without the few glaring baserunning mistakes, he’s someone a fan can be impressed with and root for. Good clutch hitter too.
Turner is either a starter, or at AAA.
I don’t think a utilityman has to be more than mediocre at SS (which Turner is), unless your team has a fragile shortstop who is unlikely to play more than 120 games a year.
Once Citi Field opened with its fancy restaurants, expensive beers, and high ticket prices, a very large part of the fan base resigned itself to watching the Mets on TV, and gradually lost interest as the team lost games.
Joe’s right – the majority of Mets fans have only a passing interest in the team. They know whatever makes the headlines — and over the past six months, that means they know the Mets don’t have K-Rod, Beltran, nor Reyes any more. Get rid of Wright and whomever is still paying attention will turn their focus to something else other than the Mets.