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Justin Turner’s offensive production has been as advertised one month into 2024 season

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Photo credit:Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Thomas Hall
1 month ago
It would be an understatement to call Justin Turner the Toronto Blue Jays’ most impactful off-season signing thus far, although it’s not like the organization set a high bar to begin with there.
Let’s rewind to several months ago, management opted to sign Turner to a one-year, $13-million contract when there were a few higher profile, higher impact hitters available, including Cody Bellinger, J.D. Martinez and Jorge Soler. While that decision was scrutinized at the time, it has since paid dividends for a struggling offence one month into the 2024 season.
Turner has been a shining light for a Blue Jays lineup that had scored five runs or fewer in 20 straight games — tied for a franchise record — entering Monday’s series opener against the Kansas City Royals. So, naturally, he was among the main contributors who helped this team finally cross the six-run threshold a night ago.
The 39-year-old DH, carrying a dazzling .306/.390/.471 slash line with a 150 wRC+ over his first 27 games, was responsible for half of Toronto’s run production as he blasted a pair of bombs while driving in three, doubling his home run total on the year to four.
Following Monday’s two-hit performance, which is already his eighth multi-hit showing of 2024, Turner is now hitting .311/.390/.533 with 12 extra-base hits and a 165 wRC+ — good for 15th in the sport among qualified major league hitters.
Of that group, only six American League players are positioned above him: Ryan Jeffers (166), Kyle Tucker (172), Gunnar Henderson (177), Salvador Perez (180), Juan Soto (183) and Jose Altuve (191).
Turner, a two-time All-Star, has given the Blue Jays everything they could’ve asked for — and then some — as a hitter early on. When he signed last winter, the team hoped he could replicate his 23 home runs, 96 RBIs (career-high), .276/.345/.455 slash line and 114 wRC+ in 146 games with the Boston Red Sox last season.
But the veteran slugger has done more than just that. In just one month as a Blue Jay, he’s been worth 0.7 fWAR across 28 games, nearly matching the 1.0 rating he earned over a full season in 2023. For reference, here’s how he fared over his first 28 contests with the Red Sox last year:
  • 2 HR, 9 RBI, .269/.369/.375, 106 wRC+
Not only has Turner outperformed his first 28-game span from the 2023 campaign, but he’s also off to one of his best starts in the last five seasons, behind only his ’21 showing, as outlined in the chart below.
Source: FanGraphs
It is terrifying to imagine where Toronto’s offence would be without Turner, who leads all Blue Jays hitters in almost every offensive category, including hits (28), doubles (eight), RBIs (15), AVG, OBP, SLG and wRC+. If not for Daulton Varsho’s six home runs, he’d also rank first in that department.
Even more impressive is this early-season production surge hasn’t compromised his remarkable plate discipline, with his walk (11 per cent), strikeout (17 per cent) and whiff rates (18.6 per cent) all positioned in the 74th percentile or higher.
The longtime Los Angeles Dodger’s offensive value has been as advertised early on, especially considering he’s maintained his reputation as a reliable performer in hitting with runners-in-scoring-position, addressing one of this offence’s primary weaknesses from last season.
Far too often, Toronto struggled to deliver a devasting blow to its opponent in those spots, finishing middle-of-the-pack in AVG (.260), OBP (.340) and wRC+ (102) during RISP situations in 2023. While they’ve been even worse as a collective in ’24, placing 29th or worse in AVG (.193), SLG (.266) and wRC+ (70), they likely would’ve surpassed the Chicago White Sox as this season’s least clutch team by now had it not been for Turner’s consistency.
AVG/OBP/SLGBB/K RatiowRC+
2021.263/.355/.4820.8124
2022.339/.429/.5791.2176
2023.338/.395/.5470.6150
2024.318/.370/.4090.8122
Despite Turner’s less-than-desirable defensive value, he’s still been one of the Blue Jays’ most valuable position players thus far, trailing only Varsho (1.2) on the team in fWAR. That is, of course, fantastic value from a 39-year-old everyday DH.
But at the same time, it perfectly outlines one of the elements that’s been ailing this offence in 2024 — their best players haven’t been their best players.
While Turner (6.3) and Varsho (4.3) sit first and second in offensive WAR, respectively, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (-0.2), George Springer (-0.6) and Bo Bichette (-5.0) all reside on the other end of the scale, coming in at seventh, eighth and 11th. For this club to make the playoffs, that trio, extended to a quartet if you include Alejandro Kirk’s -3.0 rating, must turn the corner — and do so quickly.
There will come a time when Turner’s bat cools off. Judging by his track record, the right-handed-hitting slugger likely won’t feature a batting average north of .300 and a slugging percentage above .500 for the entire year, considering he’s failed to meet or exceed those marks over the previous three seasons.
Other signs that suggest he’s due for a natural regression are his league average quality-of-contact output, which places his hard-hit rate (40 per cent) in the 51st percentile, and that most of his damage has come against fastballs — an offering he’s faced 68.7 per cent of the time, the highest usage he has seen since becoming a full-time big-leaguer in 2011.
The current pace that Turner is on doesn’t appear to be sustainable. However, given that he was 21 per cent better than league average from 2021-23 per wRC+, there’s no reason to believe he can’t remain productive at the plate moving forward. It just may not be as the 65-per-cent-above-league-average hitter that he’s been up to this point with the Blue Jays.
As a 16-year MLB veteran who’s 11 hits shy of 1,500 and nine home runs back of 200 for his career, Turner’s impact has undoubtedly been felt almost as much off the field than on it — if not more. Just one month into the regular season, it’s become evident he’s already emerged as a strong presence inside Toronto’s clubhouse.
For someone with 86 career games of post-season experience — all with the Dodgers — plus a 2017 NLCS MVP Award and a ’20 World Series ring in his trophy case, Turner has been the perfect addition for a Blue Jays squad that has struggled to resemble a playoff contender with nearly 20 per cent of its 162-game schedule completed.

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