The Nationals bullpen is a dumpster fire, but you already know that. Like any good dumpster fire, there is always going to be that other man who says “but we need to put that out, there’s treasure in there!” Well folks, you are that “other man” and that other man’s “treasure” is Jacob Turner.
Turner endeared himself to the Nationals in late April when he pitched remarkably well at Coors Field while filling in for Steven Strasburg. On May 2nd, Dusty Baker announced that Turner would be taking the rotation spot vacated by an ineffective Joe Ross, and would start the following weekend. Then, as has become customary when the calendar flips from April to May, Gio Gonzalez lost effectiveness on Wednesday night while walking seven batters, putting stress on a depleted bullpen. In stepped Jacob Turner, who threw the final 4 innings without allowing a run to lock down a 2-1 win over the Diamondbacks.
Clearly, we will be seeing more of Turner in the coming weeks, so who is the journeyman who turns 26 on May 21st? The Nationals are his fifth team after spending time with the Tigers, Marlins, Cubs, and White Sox. The former ninth overall pick of Detroit has always had great stuff to match a strong frame (6’5”, 215lbs), but has never been able to put it together. He throws a sinker in the mid 90’s, changeup in the high 80’s and a curve in the low 80’s, all with slightly below average but respectable movement. His biggest issue is that he has never generated a ton of misses — only 5.9 K/9. Last year, Turner also struggled with finding the plate in limited innings at the major-league level, walking 16 in 24 1/3 innings. The combination of a high walk rate without strikeout stuff unsurprisingly resulted in Turner getting thrashed throughout his career. His 5.09 career ERA and 1.50 WHIP means that every chance at the majors could easily be his last.
Will this time be different? It is far too early to say, although there are some good signs. He pitched to contact for the most part on Wednesday, but picked up a few huge strikeouts – the most important being a called strike three against AJ Pollock with a runner on 2nd and two out in the 6th inning with the game tied. He has done nothing but impress in his two extended outings against the strong lineups of Colorado and Arizona. The most impactful difference he has made, and any Nats fan who has watched this bullpen in 2017 will appreciate this, is that he has thrown strikes. He walked two in his single inning against the Mets, but in the two full-length starts, he walked zero. Over two thirds of his pitches have been for strikes, and for a bullpen that consistently has put hitters on base for free (especially Blake Treinen…), Turner is quickly showing value.
Until Ross returns to the team, there is little to no chance that Jacob Turner gets sent back down — barring injury, of course. Turner is going to have an opportunity in the weeks ahead to continue to show flashes of the first-round talent that could force Dusty Baker and Mike Maddux to keep him in the nation’s capital no matter what happens with Ross. After all, he can’t make the pen any worse . . . right?Tags: Jacob Turner, Nationals, Nats, Washington Nationals