When former Los Angeles Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti inked Justin Turner to a Minor League contract during the 2013 offseason, it was merely viewed as a depth signing that could potentially bolster a bench in need of an upgrade.
Turner sure did provide an upgrade.
Primarily serving as a versatile utility player who can play all over the infield, Turner went on to have the best season of his career in 2014. In 109 games and 322 plate appearances, he slashed .340/.404/.493 with seven home runs and 21 doubles.
As a result of his elite offensive production and respectable defense, Turner ultimately accumulated 3.2 Wins Above Replacement (WAR). The main (and only) concern regarding Turner entering the 2015 season was whether he’d be able to sustain his offensive success based on an astronomically high .404 Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP) in 2014.
Fast forward to late-June of the 2015 season, and Turner hasn’t just sustained his outstanding numbers from a year ago — he’s outperforming them. Through 66 games and 199 plate appearances, he is slashing .320/.392/.584 with 11 home runs and 12 doubles; the 11 home runs surpasses Turner’s career-high of seven from last season with ease.
Turner’s most productive month to this point has been June, in which he’s batting .342/.384/.658 with six home runs, one triple and five doubles in 86 plate appearances. Amazingly enough, he wasn’t even an everyday player until late-May when the Dodgers had no choice but to trade fan favorite, Juan Uribe to the Atlanta Braves to free up a spot.
Turner’s only struggle thus far is against left-handed pitching (.135/.273/.135 in 44 plate appearances). If those numbers presumably improve as the season continues, his overall statistics will see a major boost, as unbelievable as that sounds.
Additionally, his defense has also improved according to various advanced metrics. Turner has already totaled a 2.8 WAR and is on pace to surpass the six plateau, assuming he remains healthy and continues to get starts every day.
Perhaps most impressive, Turner is producing at an elite level with a sustainable BABIP of .324, which is right in line with his career BABIP of .322. So, just how good has Turner been since joining the Dodgers? Here’s where he ranks amongst the rest of the league:
Not only are those numbers All-Star worthy, but one could make the case that Turner is deserving of MVP votes. Just for fun, let’s look at the reigning American League Most Valuable Player Mike Trout’s numbers from the same timespan:
By no means is that to suggest Turner is a duplicate of Trout, but it’s interesting how similar some of their statistics are by the rankings. Obviously, Trout’s sample size is about double the plate appearances, but it’s fair to wonder if Turner would be significantly closer to Trout in terms of WAR and ISO if he had the same amount of playing time.
Just for good measure, let’s look at another slugger’s rankings since the beginning of 2014 — Giancarlo Stanton of the Miami Marlins.
Again, Turner is relatively close in the rankings to the majority of his statistics, sans WAR and ISO because of the limited plate appearances (and the fact that Stanton is arguably the best power hitter in baseball).
Regardless of any comparison, Turner has legitimately been one of the best offensive players in the sport over the last 14 months and should be recognized for his efforts with a trip to Cincinnati this July.
In order to make “Justin Turner, All-Star Third Baseman” a reality, vote for him by writing in his name since he isn’t listed on the ballot.