Justin Turner’s Future Is The Bench, And It’s Not Bad

By Unknown author

Justin Turner had just about the best start any rookie trying to make a name for himself could have.  From his call-up in mid-April to the end of May, Turner hit .323/.369/.448 with a homer and 21 runs batted in, including one RBI in seven straight games.  Unfortunately, Turner had a miserable June, hitting just .209/.305/.275 during the month, and has since gone through hot and cold streaks while filling in for the injured David Wright, and now Daniel Murphy.  While Turner has done an admirable job replacing injured Amazins, his future with the team in 2012 and beyond is on the bench-which isn’t bad at all.

After his torrid start, Turner is now batting .255/.323/.356 with four homers in 407 plate appearances, now seeing time almost exclusively at second base since David Wright’s return.  His offense production is below average, according to his wRC+ of 93, but is hitting .333/.438/.483 with runners in scoring position.  He’s also swiped seven bases while being caught twice and been hit by ten pitches.  Turner’s walk rate of 6.6% is below the league average of 8.1%, but his strikeout rate of 11.8% is well below the league average of 18.4%.  In fact, Turner only swings and misses 4.2% of the time, lower than the 8.6% Major League clip.

Defensively, Turner has not fared too well, although the sample size is still relatively small.  In 510 innings at second base, he’s cost the Mets nine defensive runs (four as a result of not turning double plays effectively, and five from lacking range) and posted a UZR of -6.8 (-2.3 from double play runs, -2.7 from range, and -1.8 from errors).  In 258.2 innings at third base, Turner has cost the Mets three defensive runs and posted a UZR of -0.2.  So he hasn’t been a defensive stud, but there is some value in being able to play multiple positions and he’s made some nice plays.  FanGraphs puts Turner’s value on the season at 0.7 wins above average.

Turner’s WAR may very well increase (or decrease) by the end of the season, but unless he goes on a major hot streak, the numbers won’t justify him being an every day player next season.  There are also some other factors beyond his control.  That is, there are other potentially better players who could play second base.  Assuming Murphy comes back healthy, he will likely be the starting second baseman next season, and despite his lack of fielding experience, he’s proven he can hit a little (.320/.362/.448 although he has a high BABIP).  There is also the possibility that Ruben Tejada could play second (if the Mets re-sign Jose Reyes).  And then there is Reese Havens, who hopefully is the club’s long term solution at the position.  In 216 plate appearances with Binghamton this season, Havens is batting .298/.380/.468 with six homers and should see some time at Buffalo next season.

With more talented second base options and Turner’s waning performance, it seems likely that Justin is destined for a role on the bench.  But really, is that a bad thing?  He can play multiple infield positions, spray the ball all over the field and plays hard-sounds like a solid utility player to me.  While it’s great that Turner has gotten a chance to play every day and test his abilities, the bench is probably the right place for him, and will make the team stronger as a whole