2018 Projection: Is Justin Turner Destined To Disappoint? It Would Appear So…

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

Justin Turner is coming off a monster 2017 campaign, despite playing in just 130 games, as he produced like one of the elite bats.  Can anyone argue with these types of numbers:

457 At Bats
.322 Batting Average (147 Hits)
21 Home Runs
71 RBI
72 Runs
7 Stolen Bases
.415 On Base Percentage
.530 Slugging Percentage
.326 Batting Average on Balls in Play

The number that obviously jumps out at you is his average, especially as a career .289 hitter.  It wasn’t significant luck that brought him to the gaudy number, so what led to it?  Is it something he can maintain?  Let’s take a look:

Where Turner saw a dramatic improvement was in his plate discipline, as he posted a career best 10.3% strikeout rate (career is 14.6%) and 10.9% walk rate (career is 8.2%).  While those are impressive numbers, the underlying statistics don’t justify the improvement:

  • SwStr% – 6.4% vs. career mark of 6.3%
  • O-Swing% – 25.0% vs. career mark of 25.8%

While the “regression” would still be solid numbers, an increase in strikeouts (think 14-17% range) will obviously have a negative impact on his average.  That alone is an issue, but with a bigger fly ball approach the risks are even greater.

Like many across the game Turner saw a spike in his fly ball rate in ’17, as he tried to join into the power surge.  The owner of a career 35.9% fly ball rate, he was at 47.8% overall in ’17 and the mark increased further as the year progressed:

  • First Half – 42.8%
  • Second Half – 52.7%

That increase didn’t lead to more home runs, and it calls into question his ability to maintain his BABIP.  It’s not like Turner is a speedster, so if the ball isn’t leaving the ballpark his BABIP is going to tumble.  That can be seen in the second half of last season, when he posted a .255 BABIP leading to a .266 average (he hit .377 in the first half).

In other words, if he continues on his fly ball approach the average is going to plummet, and the risk of more strikeouts makes it that much worse.  That’s not to say that he can’t adjust, but at the end of the day we’d expect these types of numbers in ’18:

.268 (134-500), 22 HR, 80 RBI, 70 R, 5 SB, .284 BABIP, .340 OBP, .468 SLG

We didn’t even mention the risk of missed time, as Turner never appears capable of staying on the field for an entire season.  It’s easy to buy into him as one of the elite coming off of last year, but don’t make that mistake.  He’s not going to be able to maintain the average (and could see an even greater drop-off if he maintains his fly ball approach) and isn’t a significant power threat (10.8% HR/FB last season).  It all comes together for a perfect overpay situation, so be sure not to fall victim to it.

Source – Fangraphs

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Make sure to check out all of our 2018 Preseason Rankings:

Position
Standard League
OBP League
Catchers01/02/1802/02/18
First Basemen01/08/1802/09/18
Second Basemen01/15/18--
Shortstops01/22/18--
Third Basemen01/29/18--
Outfielders1-20: 02/05/18

21-40: 02/07/18
--
Starting Pitchers----
Relief Pitchers----

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