With the recent statements by both Terry Collins and Sandy Alderson that Ruben Tejada would best be served by spending 2011 in Triple-A Buffalo where he can gain more experience, most of Mets nation has turned their eyes to Daniel Murphy who is getting a crash course at second base in Winter League Baseball, and of course hold-over Luis Castillo who has fallen on hard times defensively and offensively since his days as an All Star at the position.
One name we hear seldom, is that of Justin Turner who has made some big strides in the minors and could be a significant factor at second base this spring.
Adam Rubin (who else?) had a nice writeup on Turner this morning on his blog for ESPN New York. Including comments from Moises Alou who Turner is playing for in the Dominican Republic.
Moises Alou, the ex-Mets outfielder and now general manager of the Leones del Escogido in the Dominican winter league, said he has spoken with new Mets manager Terry Collins about definitely considering Turner for a spot on the team.
Alou is impressed with Turner’s contribution to Escogido from what he has seen in the short amount of time the infielder has been playing in the Dominican Republic. Alou is confident Turner can be an everyday player if given the chance.
“Justin has been amazing,” Alou said Thursday night, in the team’s clubhouse after their victory over the Tigres del Licey. “I’ve talked to Terry Collins twice already and I’ve told him you should take a look at this guy. He’s a gamer and you’d like him a lot. I wish every player on this team was like him.”
Turner was claimed off waivers from the Baltimore Orioles last May and impressed Bisons manager Ken Oberkfell who has recently been named the Terry Collin’s bench coach.
“He swings the bat well. He’s been hitting the ball real good. I had him in Buffalo this year, so I know what he can do. I’m sure he’s a very good player. He’s a valuable guy in the organization. I can tell you one thing, he will be ready when he gets to spring training.”
Turner batted an impressive .333 last season with a .390 on-base to lead the Bisons in 312 at-bats. In less than half a season worth of games, Turner also hit 22 doubles, 11 home runs and drove in 37 runners while scoring 58 runs at the top of the order.
It wasn’t a fluke as his .303 batting average in five minor league seasons would attest.
He is currently hitting .315 in 14 games down in the Dominican Republic, and the more I learn about him, the more there is too like.
Turner is out of options according to one Mets official, which means he either makes the 25 man roster or he becomes a free agent and can refuse an assignment to the minors.
“You never know what’s going to happen, who they’re going to go out and sign,” Turner said. “All I can do is get in the best possible shape and go to spring training and be ready, and hopefully take advantage of my opportunities there. Whatever happens, happens, whether it be the second base job or utility job, hopefully I take a good enough at-bats, play well enough defensively, they’ll see me as someone that can help the team win throughout the years.”
I know the Mets just drafted a second baseman in Rule 5 yesterday in Brad Emaus, so something’s gotta give when the team makes it’s final roster decisions before Opening Day. Clearly, the Mets won’t start the season with four second basemen, and only Justin Turner can play shortstop as well which could help his cause.
I think Turner is a good bet to make the 25 Man Roster next season, and if he doesn’t there will be plenty of teams ready to jump on him and hand him an everyday job at second base or at the very least a utility infielder spot next season.