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Dodgers Grades: Getting the Most Out of Justin Turner at Third for Another Season



Welcome to part five of our annual Dodgers season grades series. Yes, these are coming out still in 2022, but here we are. Over the past few weeks, we’ve looked back, recapped, and graded our boys in blue position by position while identifying areas they can continue to work on next season.

Catchers Grades can be found here
First Base Grades can be found here
Second Base Grades can be found here
Shortstop Grades can be found here

Next position up: third base.

Should Dodgers Replace Justin Turner at Third? How To Get Most From JT Next Season | Dodgers Grades

Justin Turner

2021 Grade: B
2020 Grade: B+

Third base is by far the easiest position of this series. Justin Turner took down 1,173.2 of 1,452 innings at the hot corner in 2021. Chris Taylor had the second most with 81 innings. So yeah… big drop off. JT played the 2021 season as a 36-year-old and was well on the way to his best season as a big leaguer through the first three-plus months of the year. At the all-star break, he was hitting .305 with 29 extra base hits, 50 RBI, and a .889 OPS over 84 games. He was named a National League All-Star for the second time and it was looking like the Dodgers made a brilliant move in signing him to a 2-year deal with a team option in the previous offseason.

Then the second half happened.

As the season resumed, Turner’s production eroded. For the most part, he stayed healthy, tying a career-high with 151 games played. But, over 67 second half games, his batting average slipped from .305 to .241 and his on-base percentage fell by more than 70 points. A late season surge had fans hopeful for the postseason, but the wheels absolutely fell off in October.

The veteran had just 4 hits in 34 at-bats and only one run batted in (on a solo home run) before suffering a hamstring injury in the NLCS that ended his season a few games early.

Altogether, the Dodgers got a solid season out of Turner in the first year of that 2-year, $34 million deal, but below the surface, things are a bit more troubling.

In 2021, JT was slower than ever, placing 484th out of 557 players in sprint speed (technically he had an incremental uptick from 2020, jumping from 25.4 feet per second to 25.5). Woosh. His defense continued to decline with -3 Outs Above Average and -2 Defensive Runs Saved. And he’ll be playing 2022 as a 37 year old. 

Where can Turner improve?

To his benefit, it’s widely expected that MLB will implement the universal DH for the upcoming season, which will help keep his still-above-average bat in the lineup while getting him off his feet more often. However, a major problem for the Dodgers is that there are not many exceptional third base options on the roster.

Chris Taylor looks uncomfortable at the position and will be much more needed elsewhere. Zach McKinstry played well at the hot corner over a small sample size but needs to hit to stay in the big leagues. Edwin Rios should be healthy and back on the roster in 2022, but he’s never been known as much of a defensive standout in his pro career. And he too needs to prove he can hit big league pitching after a shoulder injury ended his 2021 season in May.

JT remains the best option for the Dodgers at 3B. And that could be a problem in the long run.

NEXT: Signing Of Andruw Jones Still Gives LA Fans Nightmares

Written by Clint Pasillas

Clint is the lead editor of Dodgers Nation, and a host and analyst on Dodgers Nation's own Blue Heaven podcast live stream.

He's been writing, blogging, and podcasting Dodgers since about 2008. He was there for Nomar, Greg Maddux, and Blake DeWitt, and he'll be there for Walker Buehler, Alex Verdugo, Dustin May, and any Dodgers of the future.

He's also a sandwich enthusiast, a consummate athlete, and a friend.

Comments

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  1. Even with the slide as the season progressed and his difficult postseason – which was shocking – JT earned a 3.7 WAR for the year. Getting off his feet to DH should help him big time. He’ll be fine for another season.

  2. They should sign Kris Bryant and have JT as the DH. Bryant is a utility guy, but third base is his primary position.

  3. Prognosticators keep talking about getting Freddie Freeman or trading for Matt Olson but the real trade should be with Oakland for Chapman and a starting pitcher.

  4. Sure he’s no Brooks Robinson, but JT’s a fully competent MLB 3rd baseman, defensively. No he’s not going to win a GG award, but I don’t cringe when I see something hit down the line. And still solid at the plate with good, albeit not great, HR/RBI numbers. And I don’t know about you, but if the game’s on the line and JT’s at bat, I’m not hopeful, I’m optimistic. I expect good things to happen.

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