The casual baseball fan has probably never heard of Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner. That’s a shame for two reasons, the first one being that the man is hard to miss thanks to his bushy red beard and flowing ginger locks.
The second is that Turner has absolutely broken out over the last couple of seasons and could well be one of the most underrated players in baseball.
Turner missed time earlier this year due to a hamstring strain but has put up incredible numbers since his return. Not only is he leading the National League with a .351 batting average, but he also leads the Majors with an eye-popping OBP of .443. Turner also has 15 home runs to go with 48 RBI.
It’s also worth noting that Turner has put up these numbers on the back of his career-year in 2016 when he hit .275 with 27 home runs and 90 RBI, finishing ninth in NL MVP voting. He will finish higher than that this year and may be a dark horse to win the award outright.
He is a major piece of the Dodgers lineup and is reaping the benefits of the four-year, $64 million deal he signed to remain in LA as a free agent last offseason. Team management has to be thrilled as that deal looks like a major bargain.
Turner has been a diamond in the rough for the Dodgers, only getting better with time, and the teams that wrote him off should kick themselves.
The Turner of old
That is because there was once a time when it didn’t seem like Turner would ever be a significant player on the major league level. He was a seventh-round pick for the Cincinnati Reds in 2006 and then traded to the Baltimore Orioles in 2008. Turner then debuted for Baltimore the following year, going 3-for-18 in 12 games.
The Orioles eventually waived Turner, and he was claimed by the New York Mets, where he found work primarily as a utility infielder for three years. He became something of a full-time guy in 2011 but was known more for his ability to play multiple positions than he was for his bat. He hit just .267 as a Met and was released after the 2013 season.
Turner then signed a minor league contract with Los Angeles, made the team out of spring training, hit .340 in 2014, and the rest is history.
Turner deserves more respect
Turner has improved year after year as a player since donning a Dodgers uniform, and it’s time for him to get further recognition for his work. Being named to his first All-Star team this year was a nice touch, but he has been a genius at the plate to where he will probably win the NL batting title.
The man is becoming masterful at putting the ball in play. His BABIP for the year is at .357 and is .320 for his career. That explains his strong OBP since his walk rate for this year is just at 11.9%. Turner also isn’t particularly prone to strikeouts, having just 37 in 362 plate appearances this year.
Yes, the argument can be made that Turner’s isolated power takes away from his hitting skills, what with it being at just .215 this year and at .165 for his career, but don’t forget that the man is still coming into his own as a hitter. He only just had a major breakout year at age 31.
The fact of the matter is that Justin Turner is a remarkably hard worker and plays with a chip on his shoulder. Getting waived by the Mets lit a fire under him and he responded by making himself one of the best hitters in the National League.
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