Posted on March 20, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
A little more than a week before opening day, the Los Angeles Dodgers have lost one of their most important players. Third baseman Justin Turner will begin the season on the DL after breaking his wrist. Turner suffered the injury after being hit by a pitch from Oakland’s Kendall Graveman Monday night. He will see a hand specialist on Tuesday to help lock in a timeline for his return. But the Dodgers expect him to be out for several weeks.
“I was hoping obviously the X-rays would be negative, but there’s a small non-displaced fracture,” Turner said Monday. “We’ll just play it by ear, see how it goes.”
Turner was arguably the team’s most impactful offensive player last year. He hit .322 with an OPS of .945, both team highs. He was also named NLCS co-MVP while helping the Dodgers reach the World Series. Being without him for the early part of the season figures to be a huge blow for the Dodgers.
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“You feel for the player and we’re not as good a team without J.T., no doubt about that,” said Dodgers GM Farhan Zaidi. “The rest of the guys are going to have to do more for us to play at the same level.”
Zaidi added that the Dodgers expect to replace Turner internally. The likes of Yunel Escobar, Brandon Phillips, and Jhonny Peralta remain free agents. But unless Turner is expected to miss months and not weeks, it doesn’t make sense for the Dodgers to explore those options. That being said, Los Angeles is lacking infield depth, even after re-signing Chase Utley earlier this winter.
The most likely scenario for the Dodgers is moving Logan Forsythe to third base while Turner is out. Forsythe started 31 games at third base last season, primarily when Turner was on the DL. Meanwhile, Utley could get most of the playing time at second base, at least against right-handed pitchers.
Enrique Hernandez should also see plenty of time at second base. Hernandez is having a great spring but could find himself fighting for playing time in a crowded outfield. Catcher Austin Barnes could also see time at second base, especially with Yasmani Grandal capable of stepping in behind the plate. The versatility of players like Hernandez and Barnes helps to give the Dodgers some options while Turner is out, which could prove even more valuable if the aging Utley gets off to a slow start.
“I know J.T.’s down, it’s a blow, a guy you count on every day,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “It’s tough, but that’s baseball and we have a lot of good players and guys have to step up.”
If Turner ends up missing several weeks rather than a few months, the Dodgers should be able to survive his absence. However, a wrist injury could affect Turner’s productivity, specifically his power, once he returns. In that sense, this injury could have a long-term impact on the Dodgers. Despite winning five straight division titles, the Diamondbacks, Rockies, and Giants could all be viable candidates to challenge them inside the NL West, making the loss of Turner for any period of time a big deal.