Justin Turner ‘s performance in 2016 vaulted him up the fantasy ranks. After his tremendous breakout, can fantasy owners trust him as an elite 3B in 2017?
Justin Turner’s evolution into a middle of the order force for the Dodgers, is one of the more intriguing story lines this season. He has gone from super utility man, to now a 25+ HR hitter, a remarkable transformation. After his breakout in 2016, can fantasy owners now rank him among the elite 3B in the game?
The simple answer: yes.
Justin Turner finished the regular season with a, .275/27 HR/90 RBI/79 R/.832 OPS line. His production ranked him within the top-10 3B in baseball, and he quietly turned into a top-50 overall performer. While his power surge certainly stands out when looking at his career numbers, his makeover all started just a few years ago when he adopted a huge leg kick.
Last season, he showed flashes of a potential breakout when he posted 16 HR/60 RBI, but fantasy owners were still hesitant to believe in his turnaround. But, he eased all doubts this season, showing that his mechanical adjustment was the key.
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Looking at his batted ball data, it is clear to see where the leg kick has a made a difference. Prior to 2015, Turner routinely had a 45%+ GB rate, suppressing his power. He has reduced that number all the way to 36% the last two seasons, showing that he is generating more lift at the plate. With high GB rates, his FB% were bound to suffer. But in 2016, he was able to raise his FB% all the way to 40%, a 7% increase from his career average.
Oddly enough his LD% was actually pretty pedestrian at 24%, but his 50% Med and 38% Hard contact rates made up for it. The leg kick is a fad that is sweeping across baseball, and can be tricky to master, but Turner seems to finally be doing just that and it is hard to argue against the results.
Another impressive part of his season, was that he was slowed majorly in April after a knee procedure heading into the season. With a healthy April, he would have surpassed the 30 HR/100 RBI mark, possibly giving him a .270/30 HR/100 RBI/85 R season. He did strike out 100+ times in 2016, the first time in his entire career, but his 84% Contact rate should allow him to maintain a .270 AVG.
The only real oddity in his Turner’s breakout campaign, were his struggles against LHP. Turner posted a .305 AVG/22 HR line versus RHP in 2016, but could only muster a .209 AVG against LHP. He is a career .245 hitter against lefites with that said, but .209 is a far cry from where he normally is. Owners should not expect a marked improvement versus LHP next season, but he will not struggle as much as he did, only helping his 2017 value.
The Dodgers have a solid core moving forward, but Turner also happens to be a free agent at seasons end. He did hit 11 HR in LA, but a move to a hitter’s paradise would immensely boost his value. Possible landing spots like the Yankees, Houston, or maybe even Cincinnati, would do wonders for his power potential. More than likely he will stay put, but his value would rise outside of Los Angeles.
Justin Turner has ascended the ranks, and should be locked in as a top-10 3B. He lacks the top side production of Manny Machado or Nolan Arenado, but he is certainly in the tier right below them.
Believe in the leg kick.