The headliner of the Dodgers trade deadline already made his mark on the team, with Max Scherzer striking out 10 and getting a curtain call on Wednesday in his electric debut with Los Angeles. But the other huge acquisition in that same trade with the Nationals is due to arrive this weekend, and Trea Turner could make an even bigger impact on the Dodgers.
Since the start of the 2020 season, Turner is hitting .327/.378/.546 with 30 home runs, his 7.0 FanGraphs WAR ranking second in the majors, behind only Fernando Tatis Jr.
Turner’s 33 steals rank fourth in the majors during that time, all while playing above average defensively at shortstop.
“He’s very dynamic. There’s nothing on a baseball field that he can’t do. He can beat you in so many ways,” Dave Roberts said. “If you look at major league baseball, he’s on a short list that can beat you with different skill sets and tools, with the arm, the glove, the power, the speed. There’s not many guys that can play a premium position that can do that. He’s an intense competitor.”
When Turner is activated at some point in this series against the Angels, the Dodgers will have seven of the top 24 hitters in the National League this season.
Dodgers top hitters in 2021
This list doesn’t include Corey Seager, who just returned after missing 65 games with a broken hand, but sports a well-above average 119 wRC+ on the season. That’s eight very good hitters for eight lineup spots on most days.
Turner, combined with the still-fresh activations of Seager and Mookie Betts, gives the Dodgers the potential of a lineup with essentially no holes, a hallmark of their success the last few seasons.
It hasn’t been that way the last few months. Since we just broke down the middle third of the season, let’s use that as a reference point. Dating back to June 1 — 55 games in all — the Dodgers have started a position player with a current seasonal wRC+ under 90 a total of 115 times. That’s over two easier outs per game in the lineup, not counting pitchers.
It doesn’t count catchers either since Austin Barnes has a 91 wRC+, in case you were wondering.
Those lineup holes fall into two categories. First are the extras, those filling in for injured players, the ones who otherwise might not start, or might not have started as often with the team at full strength. Zach McKinstry, Billy McKinney, Steven Souza Jr., Luke Raley, Zach Reks, and Sheldon Neuse have started a total of 44 games since June 1. Four starts out of every five games from this group. Four of those six are currently in Triple-A, and it’s a safe bet that one of Reks or McKinney will be the corresponding move when Turner gets activated. This problem pretty much solves itself.
The others are underperforming regulars. Gavin Lux struggled mightily — .227/.307/.349, 93 wRC+ on the season; .143/.238/.171, 24wRC+ against left-handers — before landing on the injured list with a hamstring strain. Lux started 34 of the last 55 games. He began the year as the regular season second baseman, and took over at shortstop when Seager broke his hand. With Seager and Turner active, Lux has no place in the lineup.
The bigger problem is Cody Bellinger, who hasn’t hit all year. He has the shoulder surgery power drop that we’ve seen from Adrian Gonzalez and Shawn Green in years past — Bellinger’s lowest isolated power (slugging percentage minus batting average) before this year was .210, and his career ISO was .274 entering 2021. This year, Bellinger has a .123 isolated power, his extra-base hit ability all but sapped.
There’s also the other injuries piled on top of a season in which Bellinger really only had two weeks of spring training before the season. He missed 46 games with a broken left fibula, and has been sidelined twice by hamstring tightness, though only once did the latter land him on the injured list. Bellinger on the season is hitting .168/.267/.291, a 58 wRC+, an unacceptable batting line for a player with any sort of regular playing time.
Bellinger’s defense in center field mitigates some of his offensive void, and it was easier to let him work through his struggles at the plate when the alternatives to make outfield starts were Raley, Reks, DJ Peters, or McKinney. But once Turner is active, the Dodgers have a complete and productive lineup without Bellinger.
“He’s been grinding. It’s been a difficult time for him, trying to perform at this level, and still trying to get the front shoulder strength when you’re recovering from a surgery,” Roberts said. “I think for me, continuing to run him out there and give him the confidence to get that swing right. But we still need to win baseball games, and that has to be the most important thing.”