Justin Turner Is Probably Not A Starter

Fewer than two months ago, Justin Turner was mentioned in the same breath as Dillon Gee (who, at the time, had a lot of "wins" and no "losses") and others as a possible Rookie Of The Year candidate, and at the time it could hardly have been considered a fringe opinion. Through 30 games and 107 plate appearances, Turner was hitting .320/.364/.470 and had knocked in 22 runs despite having started just 24 games. Turner had been one of the last cuts of Spring Training, ultimately losing the last infield spot to Brad Emaus, whose Rule 5 status and Turner's minor league options gave him (Emaus) a slight edge as camp broke in early April. Emaus never got it going with the Mets (though he's hitting .313/.389/.564 with Triple-A Kalamazoo) and by the third week of April Turner had his big league roster spot.

Fans quickly fell in love with Turner, and who could blame them? He has grission coming out his ears. He's a ginger. He's a social media expert in the mold of James Kannengieser. There was a lot to like.

Then things went awry when the Law Of Large Numbers impinged on Turner's delightful but unsustainable success in his first couple-dozen games. Here is what Turner did through 1 June and afterwards:

Through 6/1: .320/.364/.470 in 107 plate appearances (.349 BABIP)
After 6/1: .246/.319/.298 in 192 plate appearances (.284 BABIP)

Turner hasn't walked much overall and he has barely warning-track power when there's a hearty wind blowing out of the park, so when his batted balls ceased dropping in for hits and his doubles rate was nearly halved, it can't be surprising that offensive dysfunction set in. His OPS is now south of .700 with little reason to expect a northbound surge anytime soon. Turner appears to be a below average offensive second baseman with average defense and baserunning. Taken collectively and paired with the league minimum salary, that's not a completely useless player and could in fact constitute a decent backup infielder and spot starter. There's nothing wrong with that, really.

When David Wright returned from the disabled list last week at least one crazy person on Twitter suggested that Turner remain the starter at second and that Murphy platoon with Wright at third, which would presumably have left Lucas Duda as the starting first baseman. There are more problems with this supposition than I care to address now or ever, but it's amusing that Turner getting the bulk of the playing time at second could be considered a foregone conclusion by anyone.

At least until Carlos Beltran gets traded (or not), Duda should get most of the starts at first, Wright should get nearly all of the starts at third, and Murphy should get nearly all of the starts at second. It's hard to imagine a realistic scenario where Turner is ever more than a part-time player for this (or any team). He seems like a really good dude and he's fun to watch when he's actually hitting, but in 2012 Ike Davis will be back at first, Duda will be in the outfield somewhere I'm assuming, and Murphy might just be an above-average all-around second baseman for this team. His defense is iffy and he runs the bases like there are two outs all the time (= not a compliment), but he's cheap and he figures to hit well enough to play second for a decent big league team. In other words, he might just figure into the Mets' long-term plans, which is more than I can reasonably say for Justin Turner.

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