Saturday, January 12, 2008
Top Prospect List: #23 Justin Turner, 2b
Justin Turner is a grinder who gets every last drop out of his athletic ability. Unfortunately, his ability and upside are limited, but he's got the drive and work ethic to be successful.
Turner went to Cal State Fullerton, one of the top college baseball programs in the country, where he played with fellow Reds prospect Danny Dorn. Turner was actually drafted before Dorn, as the Reds grabbed him with the 204th pick in the 7th round of the 2006 draft.
Turner stands 5'11" tall, weighs 190 lbs, bats right, and throws right.
Turner's professional career started out in the Pioneer League at the end of the 2006 season, where he made quick work of the less advanced competition, posting a line of .338/.411/.511/.921. In addition, he swiped 12 bags in 14 attempts and hit 6 homeruns. Of course, the Pioneer league is a level down from the competition of elite college baseball programs, so Turner should have done very well.
In 2007, the Reds bumped Turner up to low-A Dayton, where he continued performing at a high level. He hit a robust .311/.374/.446/.820 with 10 homers and 12 steals in 20 attempts. However, he only had a 14% line drive rate and an uninspiring 72/39 K/BB rate.
Turner got a late season bump up to high-A Sarasota, where he struggled in a small sample size. Sarasota is the most difficult offensive environment in the Reds system, so depressed offensive stats are to be expected. In 20 ABs with Sarasota, Turner hit .200/.238/.200/.438, which is just too small of a sample size to be indicative of anything.
Turner has acquitted himself rather well at the lower levels, but as a polished college player that isn't unexpected. His real challenge starts now, as he's likely to head back to Sarasota in 2008 with a chance for a promotion to Double-A Chattanooga.
On offense, Turner doesn't do anything especially well, but he doesn't have any glaring weaknesses either. He's the type of player who defies expectations. He grinds and grinds and grinds. Simply put, he does whatever it takes to get the job done.
Turner hits out of a slightly wider than shoulder width stance and uses a high back elbow. He takes a very small stride, which is little more than slightly raising his foot up and putting it back down. His lower body doesn't generate much power, as his hip rotation just isn't very strong. Turner has a short, compact swing that is fairly uncomplicated, but leaves him with only gap power.
Despite his limitations, Turner is effective because he understands his strengths and weaknesses. He never tries to do too much with the pitch. He's willing to go with the pitch and take it the other way. At Dayton, Turner hit the ball to leftfield 146 times, to centerfield 78 times, and to rightfield 156 times, so he is obviously willing to utilize the whole field.
While Turner would benefit from controlling the zone better and being more disciplined, any success he has at the plate comes from his ability to stay within himself. He doesn't try to do too much, taking only what the game gives him and making the most of it.
You can access the MLB draft scouting video for Justin Turner here.
On defense, Turner is very fundamentally sound. He has very strong footwork and consistently gets into good fielding position on groundballs. In addition, he's got soft hands and receives groundballs very well. He moves well in the field, has good agility, and good first step quickness, all of which allows him to chew up a lot of ground. Turner has an accurate arm and average arm strength that's more than adequate at second base. Unfortunately, he likely doesn't have the range to handle shortstop, where his bat would play better, but he's a good defensive player.
Overall, Turner is the type of fundamentally sound player that you often see coming out of the top collegiate baseball programs, which is part of what makes them desirable. Unfortunately, his upside is limited, but he gets the most out of his ability. Turner does the little things very well, but lacks the skill set to do the big things well.
Ultimately, Turner will go as far as his bat will take him, but at this point he seems like a real long-shot to be a starter at the MLB level. However, his solid defense may make him a viable option as a utility infielder and given his intangibles and work ethic, it would probably be unwise to bet against Turner.
For now, Turner's intangibles, attitude, and work ethic earns him a spot at #23 on the list.