The Miami Marlins were looking for three of their young starting pitcher prospects who were expected to start the season in the majors to step up and play well. Jacob Turner, Henderson Alvarez, and Nathan Eovaldi were all acquired by the Fish in the last year and were expected to show improvement this season. But while Eovaldi and Alvarez surprised the Marlins, Turner went on to have a disappointing season.
Turner's 2013 season was marred from the start. Before the start of the year, Turner was sent down to Triple-A thanks to an awful Spring Training in which he gave up a 9.69 ERA in four starts. In that time period, Turner threw 13 innings and struck out only five batters versus nine walks. Manager Mike Redmond and the Fish turned to Wade LeBlanc and Alex Sanabia rather than Turner, and they stuck to their decision when Eovaldi and Alvarez went down with injury. Instead of returning to the more experienced Turner, the Marlins went with elite prospect Jose Fernandez, who turned out exactly right.
But Turner eventually got his chance, even though he failed in Triple-A as well. In his short Triple-A stint, Turner threw 56 1/3 innings and put up only a 4.47 ERA and 4.48 FIP, with just 35 strikeouts versus 14 walks during that time period. The Marlins brought him up despite the poor performance, but his early play was at least acceptable. In his first 54 innings in the regular season, representing the "first half" of the year, Turner put up a 2.33 ERA and 2.88 FIP. Much of his performance came from only allowing one homer in those 54 innings. However, Turner's xFIP, which determines expected ERA based on strikeouts, walks, and fly ball rate, still stood at a respectable 4.01. A 4.01 ERA is akin to players like Matt Cain, Jeremy Guthrie, and Jarrod Parker put up this season.
However, those respectable first-half numbers did not lead to a strong second half. Once the calendar flipped to August, Turner turned into a pumpkin. From August until the end of the year, Turner threw 46 2/3 innings and put up a 5.40 ERA and a 6.13 (!) FIP. That terrible performance was fueled by a parade of walks; Turner walked a whopping 29 batters in 46 2/3 innings, including a two-start stretch in which he walked 11 in 10 innings without recording a single strikeout. Overall, he walked one more batter than he struck out. Home runs also did not help, especially in September. Turner only got 14 1/3 innings in that final month and gave up four homers, and overall he gave up 10 in the second half.
Turner's lack of control was difficult to watch, particularly in the second half. Last year, in his time with the Marlins, he was able to place his fastballs in the strike zone to the tune of a 1.5-to-one ratio of balls to called strikes. That ratio went up to 1.8 this season. The major culprit, however, was his set of breaking pitches. His sliders went for a four-to-one ratio, while his curves went for a 4.2-to-one ratio, both way over compared to his numbers from last year.
Combine that terrible control of his breaking pitches with his home run rut in the second half and the season quickly turned sour for Turner. The Fish now have a full year, between his poor Triple-A play and the second half struggles, that shows that Turner may not be ready for Major League hitters. Will the Marlins turn to him again next year with he fifth spot up for grabs?