After being non-tendered by the New York Mets following the 2013 season, Justin Turner went on to sign a Minor League contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers and become an everyday player.
Turner initially filled a utility role after joining his hometown team but earned his way to a starting job at third base which factored into the Dodgers trading Juan Uribe to the Atlanta Braves in May 2015.
While Turner had proven to be a capable hitter, it didn’t entail much power. That began to change with the 2015 season, or one year after Turner began working with Marlon Byrd’s hitting coach to adjust his batting stance and philosophy.
It’s an anecdote Turner has shared on multiple occasions, but he revealed in an interview with FOX that former teammate Zack Greinke also led to a change at the plate:
“About halfway through the 2014 season I was sitting next to Zack Greinke and talking about how he would attack me if he was pitching to me. He went and looked at numbers and said, ‘I would throw you nothing but fastballs down and away.’ And I said, ‘Are you kidding me, Zack? I get so many hits the other way, to right-center, I use the whole field. Why would you pitch me away?’
“He said, ‘Yeah, but all your hits come on balls close to you.’ I was kind of scratching my head a little bit and I asked him, ‘So you think I should stand on top of the plate and just make everything close to me?’ He said, ‘If I were you, I would get as close to the plate as you could and make every pitch as close to you as possible.’ From that day forward I’ve been on top of the plate and it’s worked out pretty well for me.”
Turner slugged what was then a career best 16 home runs in 2015, which marked the start of reaching double digits in each of the past five seasons. He had 34 doubles and 90 RBI the following year, setting career highs in both categories.
The insight Greinke provided has also backfired in head-to-head meetings, as Turner is career .333/.368/.639 batter with three doubles, one triple, two home runs and six RBI in 38 plate appearances (postseason included).
Though the concerted effort to stay on top of the ball has paid off in terms of power and production, it’s also resulted in Turner being a bit of a magnet for the ball. He’s been hit by a pitch at least 10 times in six seasons, including each of the past five.
He was plunked a career-high 19 times during an All-Star campaign in 2017, and is up to 71 during his Dodgers career. Turner holds the L.A. franchise record and trails only Zack Wheat (73) and Jackie Robinson (72).