Los Angeles third baseman Justin Turner continues to be one more of the consistent players in all of baseball. Even without the designated hitter coming to the National League this season, the Dodgers valued Turner’s services, hence the $34 million signing for two years.
Sure, he misses time each season, but he makes the most of his time when on the field. In 42 games in 2020, he hit .307 with four home runs and 23 RBI. His .153 ISO and .460 slugging percentage were both below his career marks, and in fact, it was the first time since 2015 that his ISO fell below .200. Furthermore, it was the first time since 2013 that his slugging percentage was below .490! Most of his batted ball metrics remained similar, and he even posted a career best barrel rate. So, why was everything, specifically in the power department, less impactful than years before?
Dare I say, bad luck? Turner’s xSLG of .544 was his highest mark in the past six seasons and ranked in the 93rd percentile. When you look at it versus type of pitch, you’ll see that he was incredibly unlucky in terms of slugging percentage.
Courtesy of Baseball Savant
In 2020, he did hit fewer line drives in years past, and traded that in for more fly balls, and his HR/FB rate dropped to 7.3 percent, so that certainly doesn’t help. However, all of his metrics are in line, and while I hate to just chalk it up to some bad luck, it seems like Turner was incredibly unlucky, especially in the power department.
In the postseason, his ISO was .221, which was much better than the regular season and more in line, but even when you lump in the postseason numbers, his seven total home runs still failed to meet his xHR total, which was a hair over nine. He underperformed in the power department, but with some better luck and positive regression to the mean, he’ll be right back where he was before, even in his age 36 season, especially if he continues to make hard contact.
To be honest, I’m not really concerned about Turner’s offensive game. I think he’ll return to normalcy with his power metrics and be just fine when he’s on the field. The best ability is availability. Do you know what the years 2016 and 2019 have in common? Those are the only two seasons in the past nine years that Turner has not served a stint on the disabled/injured list. Believe it or not, Turner has only played in 140 or more games in one season (2016) of his entire career.
Furthermore, the Dodgers love Edwin Ríos , and they want to get him some at-bats. He’s going to play third base and manager Dave Roberts, at least to this point, has been adamant that Turner will not see time at first base. It’s a shame the National League didn’t get the designated hitter this year. I have a hunch that this will be a thorn in the side of those fantasy owners who roster Turner in 2021.
Coming in hot as the 22nd third baseman off the board, per NFBC data, at face value, it seems like an immense value for a guy that averaged 22.25 home runs, 70 RBI and 73.25 runs scored from 2016-2019, not to mention a slash line of .298/.380/.511. You can do much worse than Turner at his current price point, but let me caution you of this: due to durability concerns and the Rios element, tread carefully.
There’s value to be had with Turner in 2021, as long as you don’t overpay for his services. He’s not going to be the mid-to-upper 20 homer guy with a batting average around or above .300. The fact that he will see less playing time is a hit to his value, and while he should still drive in plenty of runs, due to the Los Angeles lineup, he’s likely going to post a home run total in the upper teens and a batting average around .285.
Again, there’s value to be had, but don’t push him up solely due to his name. If he slides a bit in drafts, you can profit nicely, but pushing him up is risky.