Once the No. 1 pitching prospect for the Detroit Tigers, Jacob Turner has failed to meet those high expectations. But not yet 24, can he fulfill them in Chicago under the watchful eye of Chris Bosio?
When the Chicago Cubs acquired Jacob Turner from the Miami Marlins last season, it was the result of a perfect storm. Turner, previously a first-round pick of the Detroit Tigers in 2009 (ninth overall), was a key return piece in the Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante deal in 2012. The Cubs had interest previously, but the Marlins didn’t want to part with Turner.
When Turner was designated for assignment, the Cubs were second in line for waiver claims. If the Marlins pulled him back, he would have had to go on irrevocable waivers. So the teams worked out a trade for two low-level prospects in Tyler Bremer and Jose Arias.
With pitching coach Chris Bosio seemingly becoming infamous for turning around pitchers’ careers on arrival in Chicago, it seemed like a good bet. Turner had mixed results in 2014 with the Cubs, going 2-4 with a 6.49 ERA in eight games (six starts). But the Cubs clearly wanted Bosio to have more time to work with him, so Spring Training will be the determining factor for him.
His career numbers aren’t inspiring, with an 11-25 record and 4.97 ERA in 298 2/3 innings. But Turner won’t turn 24 until May, after making his MLB debut at only 20-years-old in 2011 with the Tigers. So what do we expect out of him this season? Turner, like Felix Doubront, got a small audition as a starter last season. At that point it appeared the Cubs would have no less than two open rotation spots. Now with Jon Lester and Jason Hammel, there are several battling for that final slot in the rotation.
Early in his young career, Baseball America was continually ranking Turner as the best in the Tigers’ organization. By 2012, he had fallen out of favor-going from comparisons to Justin Verlander to a projected middle-reliever-and this is why you can’t get too excited about prospects.
So with what is determined to be an “open” competition for the last spot in the rotation, including Tsuyoshi Wada, Edwin Jackson, Travis Wood and Doubront – can we expect Turner to rise to the expectations early in his career? Or is he on the downswing before his 24th birthday?
Barring a disastrous spring from Wood, I see him keeping his spot in the rotation. In my mind I was sure of this before the arrival of Lester, simply because he was a lefty to break things up. But two southpaws in the rotation can’t hurt. But I do believe Bosio will work his magic with Turner, especially if he can help him develop his changeup. But on that, I see him starting in the bullpen; likely as the “long-reliever” alongside Wada.
The Cubs carried an extra pitcher for most of last season. But manager Joe Maddon loves to utilize his bench. So the chances he shorts himself there is unlikely, meaning there will be one less player out in the bullpen. But with a month till Spring Training, there is still plenty of time for things to change-including the possibility of one of the aforementioned starter candidates to be traded.
Turner is another low risk/high reward pickup. Traded for two prospects that aren’t likely to make the majors, any contribution would be considered a win.