Dodgers’ Justin Turner has officially become an elite third baseman
Justin Turner has been raking for the Dodgers this season, and it is time to include him in the upper echelon of his position.
Last night, Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner had a 14-game hitting streak snapped but still owns a slash line of .390/.448/.537. Simply amazing. He hasn’t displayed the same power from last year, but he might be regaining it. In his ten games back from the DL, he has hit three home runs, which gives him four on the season. This is about the same time last year when he caught fire with the long ball.
After being a bench player during 2014 and part of 2015, JT has worked his way up into stardom in LA and is finally among the elite third basemen in all of baseball. He has joined the likes of Nolan Arenado, Kris Bryant, Manny Machado, and Josh Donaldson. Look at how his numbers compare to their’s this season:
Numbers are according to FanGraphs
Turner: .390/.468/.537, 4 HR, 174 wRC+, 3.0 WAR
Arenado: .302/.354/.579,15 HR, 120 wRC+, 2.8 WAR
Bryant: .260/.392/.512,15 HR, 136 wRC+, 2.3 WAR
Machado: .227/.296/.457,15 HR, 94 wRC+, 1.3 WAR
*Donaldson: .296/.397/.574, 8 HR, 155 wRC+, 1.5 WAR
*Donaldson has only had 104 at-bats
Now obviously his power does not compare at the moment, and probably will not, but Turner is still just as dangerous. Plus, his main power comes from his ability to find the gaps for extra-bases. Not to mention, however, he does have some pop in his bat, shown by his 27 home runs last season.
Manny Machado is having a down season, yes, but if he is in the conversation for “best third baseman” even with such a terrible season, Turner deserves to be in it as well.
Your argument against Turner may be that he’s a late bloomer and a “flash in the pan.” Well, since 2014, he is hitting .309/.378/.500 across 433 games. People worried that last season might have been somewhat of a fluke because it was a contract year. Well, they’ve been proven wrong.
He’s also taken the next step in his development as a hitter, hitting off lefties. After being abysmal against them in 2016, this year he is hitting .375 off southpaws with a 1.042 OPS.
Turner’s real strength as a hitter is his ability to control the strike zone and be a spray hitter, meaning he can hit to all part of the field, and not be just a pull hitter. His plate awareness at the moment is pretty surreal, and his 11.9% strikeout rate helps show that. He is striking out significantly less than his peers above. Bryant, Donaldson, and Machado are over 20%, while Arenado is at 17.5%.
I think it is fair to say that at this moment in time, Justin Turner is the best pure hitting third baseman when you factor in his batting eye, awareness, ability to put bat to ball, spread the ball around, and solid power. I would dare to say that he’s one of the best in all of MLB and has a good shot at the batting title.
Where his game has improved a ton and helped force him into this conversation is on the other side of the diamond. Justin Turner is now an elite defender at the hot corner. Manny Machado and Nolan Arenado are considered the two best defenders at the position, and Josh Donaldson isn’t far behind.
Machado already has seven errors but five defensive runs saved (DRS) while Arenado has committed just a single error and has an absurd 14 DRS already. Donaldson hasn’t logged enough innings to make a fair judgment.
Turner has committed just two errors while manning the hot corner for the Dodgers and has five DRS as well. Five over a full season is above-average, so if Turner continues his defensive play over an entire season, he will grade out as a “great” defender (10-15).
However, you don’t need metrics to know that JT has become a defensive rock. His reflexes, along with nifty glove work, and a good arm, are fun to watch. He doesn’t have the range of Arenado or Machado, but that is what makes his expertise even more impressive.
Justin Turner is arguably the Dodgers’ best position player, and it is time he gets his national recognition for that. He has become a legitimate MVP candidate for 2017. I’d still say Arenado is the best third baseman at the moment, but JT isn’t far behind.
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