Name: Jacob Turner
Notable 2011 Stats: 3.48 ERA, 3.65 FIP, 9 HRA, 32 BB, 90 K, and 46% GB% in 113 2/3 IP with Erie (AA);
3.12 ERA, 2.16 FIP, 1 HRA, 3 BB, 20 K, and 46% GB% in 17 1/3 IP with Toledo (AAA);
3.44 ERA, 3.45 FIP, 10 HRA, 35 BB, 110 K, and 46% GB% in 131 IP total in minors;
8.53 ERA, 6.03 FIP, 3 HRA, 4 BB, 8 K, and 41.3% GB% in 12 2/3 IP with Tigers
Why He’s This High: Jacob Turner was the youngest pitcher to appear in the major leagues this year, which speaks volumes about how advanced he is for his age. One could argue he was rushed to the big leagues by a Tigers organization that tends to move prospects rapidly, but it’s not like they yanked him up in the middle of a bad season–he showed excellent command of his four-pitch arsenal at both the Double-A and Triple-A levels.
On a stuff level, Turner is quite similar to the #7 prospect (and second-youngest MLB pitcher in 2011), Julio Teheran. He throws a 90-94 mph fastball with excellent sink, his power curveball flashes plus, and he’s got a split/change that also works well when it’s on. He also has a cutter that can give lefthanders a different look. He lacks the one obviously plus pitch that Teheran has, but all of his pitches have the potential to be plus, and he doesn’t have Teheran’s mechanical issues or flyball tendencies. With those advantages, he edges out Teheran as the best right-handed pitching prospect in baseball on this list.
Why He’s This Low: Turner certainly doesn’t seem that “overwhelming” of a pitcher, being a guy that tops out around 94-95 mph, doesn’t have a consistently plus pitch at the moment, and struck out a Teheran-esque 7.56 K/9 in the upper minors. Part of the reason he doesn’t seem that dominant is simply because he was so young for even Double-A in 2011; that said, the only time he’s struck out over a batter per inning is his 17-inning Triple-A stint. It’s tough to tell exactly how much of his “sub-excellence” should be attributed to his youth and how much should be attributed to a lack of plus stuff.
Like Teheran, Turner was hit around in the majors because he got himself in bad counts by throwing too many chase pitches with his curve and splitter. We should expect him to adjust that strategy once he realizes it’s not working, and he has more than enough control to get his walk rate back down.
Conclusions: Turner should be a big, durable front-of-the-rotation presence, and he has three pitches with plus potential. He doesn’t turn 21 until May, and he should be a major league fixture right around his birthday. It looks highly likely that he’ll be able to maintain a very low walk rate and solid groundball/homer rates in the majors, especially as he matures. If he tightens up his pitches and sequencing, he should get enough whiffs to be an ace, and barring a tremendous setback, his worst-case scenario is probably something like Luke Hochevar with better command.
Check out all of the Seedlings To Stars 2012 Top 100 Prospects here!
For more on the Tigers, check out Motor City Bengals!