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Marlins Rotation Candidates: Jacob Turner

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Can Turner rekindle his prior success with the Fish?

MLB: Spring Training-New York Yankees at Miami Marlins Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

With only a few weeks until Opening Day, it’s still anybody’s guess who will fill the 3-4-5 spots in the Marlins’ starting rotation. One solid candidate for making the cut is former Marlin right-hander, Jacob Turner.

Turner, a Missouri native, was drafted out of high school by the Detroit Tigers in the 1st round (9th overall) of the 2009 MLB Draft. He may not excite the imagination of the wide-eyed little leaguer inside all of us, but pitchers who have been middle relievers and spot starters rarely do.

Turner spent parts of three seasons with the Fish (2012-2014) where he made 39 starts in 47 appearances. By far his best season in the majors was 2013 when he tossed a career high 118 innings, and sported a 3.74 ERA in 20 appearances, all as a starter.

Despite an excellent 2013 campaign, there were warning signs that it might not be easy for him to repeat that success. He only fanned 77 batters that year for a 5.9 K/9 ratio, and had a FIP of 4.43, which is 0.69 runs higher than his ERA. His ERA/FIP comparison showed that he had quite a bit of luck in 2013; while his lack of strikeouts showed that he didn’t possess a swing-and-miss arsenal.

Sadly, the advanced metrics were prescient. Turner had a disastrous 2014 that saw him traded to the Cubs mid-year. His cringe-worthy season saw him combine for a 6-11 record with an ERA of 6.13 while giving up an eye-popping 148 hits in 113 innings.

Jacob was sidelined virtually all of 2015 due to shoulder inflammation, and for 2016-17 he was shuttled between triple-A and the majors. With the White Sox in 2016, and the Nationals in 2017 he served the role of a mop-up reliever and spot starter.

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Chicago Cubs Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Over these past two seasons, he totaled 63.2 innings with a combined ERA of 5.65. He has been hurt by the long ball, having given up 13 homers during this time period, while giving up his share of hits and walks to lead to a WHIP of 1.68.

Despite these bad numbers, Turner remains intriguing. He’s still young, and has a fastball velocity that has climbed every season since 2012; averaging 95.5 in 2017. Clearly, he is putting the work in despite a history of a balky shoulder.

MLB: Spring Training-New York Yankees at Miami Marlins Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

So far this spring as a non-roster invitee, Turner has done well. See Mattingly’s take on Turner so far. He gave up one earned run over four innings on Sunday in a start against the Yankees. For the spring as a whole, he has a 2.31 ERA and a WHIP of 1.37. OK, I know it’s only spring training numbers, but that’s what the starter candidates are being judged on, and he does have the advantage of having tossed over 350 innings in the majors. If he makes the club, then a player on the 40-man roster has to be cut, but there if Turner excels, that will likely be a minor inconvenience. There’s not much time left, and Turner’s remaining starts look to be big ones for his career.