The Miami Marlins are supposed to use the 2013 season to evaluate a number of young players and see if those players are ready to become contributors for the next great Marlins team. One of those young players is Jacob Turner, whom I labeled a key to success earlier this offseason.
But it seems the Marlins have seen enough of a struggling Turner in spring training to consider dropping him from the rotation for the start of the year, or at least that is what manager Mike Redmond seemed to imply.
“He’s still got a couple of more outings, so hopefully he can get it going,” Redmond said. “But he just struggled, mostly command problems. His last outing was much better, but this one, it seemed he scuffled.”
Redmond said Turner went three innings Thursday when he faced the Cardinals’ Triple A team on one of the back diamonds at Roger Dean Stadium and walked three. In his two Grapefruit League outings, Turner has given up six earned runs in 3 1/3 innings while walking four and also hitting a batter.
The Marlins are carefully watching Turner, but he has yet to impress anyone with his spring performance. The fact that he struggled in minor league camp games is not helping his case, and the idea is that if he continues to labor, the Marlins may turn to some other options in the rotation.
Non-roster invitee Kevin Slowey and Wade LeBlanc have been embroiled in a competition for the fifth rotation spot, but both could make the roster as starting pitchers if Turner struggles through all of spring training. Both have been excellent thus far in spring, and in the ultimate world of "what have you done for me lately," that may be good enough for Redmond when combined with Turner's poor performance.
The problem with this thought process is that the Fish do not really need to see a lot of either Slowey or LeBlanc to gauge their worth to the future of the franchise. Neither pitcher is likely to be on the Fish by the time the Marlins field a competitive team, and both would qualify strictly as stopgaps. Meanwhile, Turner is a legitimate piece of the Marlins' future, or at least he is expected to be given the fact that the team traded Anibal Sanchez and a year of Omar Infante for a package highlighted by Turner. With the 2013 season more or less a lost year, this is the right time for the Marlins to evaluate Turner's future capabilities in the majors, and they should take every advantage of it.
On the Marlins' side is the evaluation of a scout quoted in the article, who says that Turner may have lost some velocity or sharpness on his breaking pitches. But given that he has thrown at most nine innings in spring training between major and minor league camp games, evaluating his ugly performance thus far seems premature. If he has legitimate concerns or an ailing injury, that would constitute a reason for taking it slow with his promotion. But if the only thing that warrants concern is his performance over nine innings, then the Marlins may simply be overreacting to a guy who warms up a little slower than normal.
The Marlins should stick to the plan and continue running Turner in the 2013 rotation as soon as possible. He showed last season that he holds some promise of matching up to his high prospect pedigree, and the Marlins need as much free time as possible in the majors to find out if he can pull it off for them.