Late this afternoon, Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports reported that the Detroit Tigers traded their No. 2 prospect, right-hander Jacob Turner, along with catcher Rob Brantly and left-hander Brian Flynn to the Miami Marlins in exchange for second baseman Omar Infante and right-handed starter Anibal Sanchez. Turner was the ninth overall selection in the 2009 draft out of Westminster Christian Academy in Missouri.
As a 20-year-old in 2011, the right-hander registered a 3.45 FIP and 3.71 SIERA with 110 strikeouts and 35 walks in 131 innings between Double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo. His success didn’t exactly translate to the major league level later that season when he made three starts for the Tigers, posting a 6.20 FIP and 4.76 SIERA in 12.2 innings.
Headed into the 2012 season, I ranked Turner as the No. 26 prospect in the game in Prospect Pipeline’s Preseason Top 50 Prospects and noted the following in my scouting report:
Turner’s 6'5" frame allows him to pound the zone with a heavy, sinking fastball that registers in the low-90s. He struggles at times with the command of his curveball, but it’s still a hammer with good shape. Turner’s changeup is only an average offering as of now, but he does throw it with fastball-like arm speed.
He probably won’t be a strikeout pitcher in the major leagues, but he has enough movement and deception to induce plenty of weak contact.
Vying for the final spot in the Tigers’ rotation headed into 2012, he was shut down for the first month of the season after experiencing shoulder tightness and fatigue during spring training. After four rehab starts at High-A Lakeland, where he registered a 3.34 FIP and 3.87 SIERA, Turner returned to Triple-A Toledo, where he posted a 3.54 FIP and 4.40 SIERA over 10 starts.
Prior to the news of the trade, Turner made three starts between two separate stints for the Tigers this season with mixed results. Overall, the 21-year-old owns a 7.74 FIP and 5.27 SIERA and has allowed 17 hits (including four home runs) and seven walks over 12.1 innings. However, the right-hander’s stats are somewhat inflated following his outing on July 17 against the Angels, when he allowed seven earned runs on six hits (three home runs) over two miserable innings.
While the Tigers immediately benefit from the acquisition of a legitimate second baseman and back-of-the-rotation starting pitcher, the Marlins are making a calculated gamble with Turner. Having made his debut at age 20, a strong argument can be made that he was rushed to the major leagues in 2011—a common complaint regarding Tigers prospects. Furthermore, the right-hander has endured multiple bouts of shoulder and arm fatigue, though there’s never been any indication of structural damage.
Yet what concerns me regarding Turner is that his strikeout and walk ratio statistics have been trending in the wrong direction—possibly part of the reason that the Tigers were willing to part with their prized pitching prospect.
According to MinorLeagueCentral.com, in 131 minor-league innings in 2011, he fanned 20.3 percent of opposing hitters while walking only 6.5 percent. However, over 84.1 innings this season, the right-hander has struck out only 16.6 percent of opposing hitters while walking 9 percent.
Additionally, relative to his 2011 season, Turner simply has been far more hittable. This year, opposing hitters are generating line drives 15.5 percent of the time, an increase from the 13.6 percent in 2011. And after generating a 71.4 percent contact rate last season, opposing hitters are making contact 80.8 percent of the time this season while swinging at less offerings overall (52.3 percent in 2011; 45.3 percent in 2012).
Considering Turner’s age, minor injury history and lack of big league experience, I believe the Tigers were wise to part with their premier pitching prospect. His key peripheral stats continue to trend in the wrong direction and, in turn, his prospect stock has waned over the last year. Although he may blossom into a mid-rotation starter for the Marlins, the Tigers definitely cashed in by acquiring two major leaguers that will immediately improve their team.