Entering the 2014 season, Justin Turner was a 28-year old utility infielder hoping to make the Los Angeles Dodgers roster with a career slash line of .260/.323/.361 and a wRC+ of 94 across 926 career PA. That put him 252nd out of 373 players with at least 900 PA between 2009 and 2013. In the two seasons since, Turner has an incredible .334/.400/.523 slash line and a 163 wRC+ across 508 PA. Of the 243 players with at least 500 PA over that span, only Paul Goldschmidt and Mike Trout have been better hitters. This information brings up two questions:
1) Is he for real, or has he had 508 PA of great luck?
2) Is he going to start earning more playing time?
First, let's tackle whether or not he's for real. There are definitely some signs of legitimate improvement that have to be encouraging if you're a Dodgers fan. In 2015, he has hit a line drive 31% of the time, the second best number in baseball (min. 180 PA) behind only Brandon Belt's 33.5%. He has also cut down on how often he has made soft contact, with his 8.5% soft contact rate also the second best mark in the league, this time behind Chris Davis' 6.3%. Hitting a lot of line drives and rarely making weak contact is typically going to result in a lot of hits, and it's done just that for Turner. However, there are also some warning signs. Turner has hit home runs on 21.7% of his fly balls this season, by far his career high and about triple his career average of 7.9%. Turner also has a .378 BABIP since the start of the 2014 season that is tied with Goldschmidt for the highest number in baseball among players with at least 500 PA. Making more hard contact will help both of those numbers some, but probably not to the extent that it has so far. This leads me to conclude that Turner has made significant improvements that have made him a very good hitter, but he likely won't continue to produce quite as well as he has been.
Now, does this performance earn him more playing time? I'd sure like to think so. After trading Juan Uribe to the Atlanta Braves, third base was there for the taking. Turner has gotten the majority of the playing time there, but also has competition from rookie Alex Guerrero who is having a nice season of his own with a 131 wRC+ and 10 home runs in 142 PA. Shortstop would also be an option for Turner in place of Jimmy Rollins, whose age appears to finally be catching up to him as he has just a 68 wRC+ in 276 PA this season. Whatever the team ends up doing, the Dodgers should be glad to have Turner. The ability to have a $273 million payroll certainly helps them, but so does the ability to find diamonds in the rough like Turner. Now, let's take a look around the NL West.
Arizona Diamondbacks (35-36, 4 GB)
The weeks that were: The Diamondbacks have crawled back into the race somewhat, going 8-4 over the past two weeks while the rest of the division struggled to come within four games of the division-leading Los Angeles Dodgers. They swept three from the Giants in San Francisco before alternating wins and losses in their next nine games against the Los Angeles Angels, San Diego Padres, and Colorado Rockies.
Upcoming schedule: Arizona will stay in the division this week. They finish up a three-game set in Colorado with the Rockies before heading to Petco Park for three against the Padres. Then they'll return home for three more with the Dodgers.
Disabled list: RHP Archie Bradley (15-day, shoulder), LHP Patrick Corbin (60-day, Tommy John surgery), C Tuffy Gosewisch (15-day, torn ACL), 2B Philip Gosselin (15-day, thumb), C Oscar Hernandez (60-day, hand), OF Ender Inciarte (15-day, hamstring), C Gerald Laird (60-day, back)
Player of the week: Paul Goldschmidt
This isn't creative, I know, but Goldschmidt has been the best player in the NL aside from Bryce Harper and just refuses to slow down. In his 53 PA over the past two weeks, he has a slash line of .372/.481/.605, a 196 wRC+, to go with three home runs, 10 RBI, and three stolen bases. Shockingly, that actually slightly lowered his wRC+ for the season, which now sits at 199.
Colorado Rockies (31-40, 8 GB)
The weeks that were: It hasn't been a fun couple of weeks for the Rockies. They went just 4-9, including a stretch where they lost eight out of nine to the Miami Marlins, Houston Astros, and Milwaukee Brewers. They are looking more and more like sellers.
Upcoming schedule: The Rockies finish up a three-game set against the Diamondbacks, then head to California for three games apiece against the Giants and Oakland Athletics.
Disabled list: RHP Rafael Betancourt (15-day, vertigo), RHP Brooks Brown (15-day, shoulder), RHP Tyler Chatwood (60-day, Tommy John surgery), OF Corey Dickerson (15-day, plantar fasciitis), RHP Jordan Lyles (60-day, toe), 1B Justin Morneau (15-day, concussion), RHP Adam Ottavino (60-day, Tommy John surgery), LHP Ken Roberts (15-day, elbow)
Player of the week: Charlie Blackmon
Chuck Nazty has been a strong presence at the top of the Rockies lineup all year and that has continued the past two weeks. He slashed .340/.426/.596 across 54 PA, good for a 163 wRC+. Blackmon tacked on four doubles, a triple, two home runs, 11 RBI, and six stolen bases as well as he gave his team production across the board.
Los Angeles Dodgers (40-33, 0 GB)
The weeks that were: The Dodgers have scuffled a bit over the past two weeks, going 6-7, but have still managed to cling to a slim division lead. In their biggest series of the past two weeks, they hosted the Giants for three games and dropped two out of three. It's looking like it may come down to the wire between those two.
Upcoming schedule: After finishing up a three-game series against the Chicago Cubs on Thursday afternoon, the Dodgers head to Miami for three against the Marlins before coming back within the division for three on the road against the Diamondbacks.
Disabled list: RHP Pedro Baez (15-day, pectoral strain), RHP Brandon Beachy (60-day, Tommy John surgery), OF Carl Crawford (60-day, oblique), RHP Chris Hatcher (15-day, oblique), RHP Brandon League (60-day, shoulder), RHP Brandon McCarthy (60-day, Tommy John surgery), LHP Paco Rodriguez (15-day, elbow), RHP Hyun-Jin Ryu (60-day, shoulder)
Player of the week: Justin Turner
I keep expecting Justin Turner to come back to earth and it keeps not happening. He was superb in 42 PA over the past two weeks, slashing .368/.429/.842, a 250 wRC+, with three doubles, five home runs, and 12 RBI. He is doing everything he can to find his way into the crowded Dodgers lineup.
San Diego Padres (35-39, 5½ GB)
The weeks that were: The past two weeks saw a bit of a fade from the Padres as they went just 5-8 and dropped to fourth place in the division. They also went just 3-5 in eight divisional games with the Dodgers, Diamondbacks, and Giants, squandering an opportunity to make up some ground.
Upcoming schedule: The Padres will finish up their three-game series with the Giants, then come home for three with the Diamondbacks and two with the Seattle Mariners.
Disabled list: C Tim Federowicz (60-day, knee), RHP Josh Johnson (60-day, Tommy John surgery), LHP Cory Luebke (60-day, Tommy John surgery), OF Wil Myers (15-day, wrist), RHP Dale Thayer (15-day, rotator cuff)
Player of the week: Craig Kimbrel
Not a lot of stand out performances for the Padres here, but it had to be good to see Craig Kimbrel have a nice few weeks after struggling, at least relative to what we're all used to seeing from Kimbrel, for most of the season. In six innings of work, Kimbrel allowed just one earned run, struck out 11, and picked up four saves.
San Francisco Giants (39-34, 1 GB)
The weeks that were: Like most of the rest of the division, the Giants struggled over the last two weeks. They went just 5-8 and were unable to overtake the Dodgers for the division lead. Their biggest bugaboo was a five-game losing streak that included a three-game sweep at home at the hands of the Diamondbacks.
Upcoming schedule: The Giants will finish off their series against the Padres this afternoon, host the Rockies for three, then head down to Miami for a three-game set with the Marlins.
Disabled list: RHP Matt Cain (15-day, flexor tendon), RHP Jake Peavy (15-day, back), OF Hunter Pence (15-day, wrist), IF Marco Scutaro (60-day, back)
Player of the week: Madison Bumgarner
In spite of his 0-2 record (yay pitcher wins!) Bumgarner was great the last two weeks. In his three starts, he threw 23⅓ innings and allowed just five earned runs on 18 hits to go with five walks and 30 strikeouts. That all adds up to a 1.93 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, and 11.57 K/9. Currently in the midst of his sixth straight season with an ERA of 3.37 or lower, Bumgarner remains one of the best pitchers in the game.