With three days before pitchers and Molinas report to Port St. Lucie, let’s examine question #3 to be answered during Mets spring training: what will be Justin Turner‘s role?
Last spring, Turner was the forgotten man in an open audition for the starting second baseman’s job. He was quickly written off and sent to AAA before Opening Day. After ten games in Buffalo, though, Turner joined the big club and eventually established himself as the everyday second baseman — save for June, when he moved over to the hot corner while David Wright was on the DL. Heading into this spring, however, second base is Daniel Murphy‘s job to lose; where does that leave Turner?
Turner’s main value is versatility; he can play 2B adequately, but not spectacularly, so it’s unlikely he will be used as a late-inning defensive replacement for Murphy. His only chance of playing 3B again — at all — is if Wright is either injured or on another team. Turner can play shortstop capably enough in a pinch, but not well enough to consider him an occasional replacement for Ruben Tejada. Further complicating the issue is the presence of Ronny Cedeno, who makes Turner redundant.
As a hitter, again, Turner is adequate but not spectacular; I’m not sure whether Terry Collins would look to him as a go-to guy in a pinch-hitting role. Turner’s running speed — like everything else in his repertoire — is good, not great, and therefore wouldn’t be considered the first guy off the bench to pinch-run.
In short, Justin Turner is a solid, smart, hard-nosed, hustling ballplayer who does everything well enough to have value, but hasn’t displayed one specific skill that makes him valuable in a particular situation. He could be compared to Joe McEwing in that respect — jack of all trades, master of none.
The only scenario I can see Turner being used is in late-inning double-switches, where perhaps he pinch-runs for Ike Davis, then goes to 2B while Murphy switches to 1B. But Cedeno can do that, so I’m not sure.
Personally, I think Turner is right now the Mets’ best option for second base. But Murphy is being shoehorned there until further notice, and Cedeno might be next on the depth chart — assuming Tejada solidifies himself at short. Ah — therein lies Turner’s main opportunity to make the 25-man roster: Tejada not making it (be it due to injury or lack of performance), in which case Cedeno plays short and Turner is the utilityman.
If he’s not playing second base and not the main utility infielder, Turner doesn’t quite fit into the Mets plans in any obvious capacity. Maybe he should learn to play the outfield, and/or first base, to extend his versatility. Of course, anything can happen in spring training, but as of now, it appears that Turner will have a tough time making the Mets Opening Day roster.
What do you think? Does Turner fit in some way that I’m not seeing? Do you care one way or the other? Answer in the comments.
About the Author
Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.