Profile: 6'5" - 210lbs - BT:R - TH:R - 2011 Age: 20
FB4 92-94: Straight but well commanded with plus velocity (60/65)
SNK 90-92: Good velocity, heavy sink, also well commanded (65/75)
CV 77-79: Inconsistent, but shows signs it could become a plus pitch with good 11/5 depth (55/70)
CH 83-84: Despite having good velocity differential, not as good as expected (50/60)
The Tigers first round pick, and the ninth overall pick of the 2009 draft, Turner signed signed for a massive 5.5m contract with a 4.7m bonus that the Tigers used to pry him away from his scholarship offer at North Carolina. He was widely considered to be the top overall prep arm available in the draft and could've gone earlier had some teams not been scared off by signability concerns.
Turner delivers his pitches from a 3/4 slot, generates good scap load, and has a very polished, repeatable delivery for someone so young. Turner's arm comes through the slot very clean and his finish is pretty smooth, though he does have a little recoil - not a huge deal, but it is an area that could be improved. The repeatability of Turner's motion has helped him to be very successful in terms of commanding his pitches, another area where he is well ahead of the game given his age.
Fans will get excited because Turner's four seam fastball generates impressive velocity, and at just 20 years old, he could add a mph or two to his already impressive heat. I'm more excited about his sinker however. He doesn't throw the pitch as hard - I've seen it as low as 88-89 - but it has heavy sink and should get lots of ground balls. By mixing up his two fastballs he should be able to disrupt the timing of hitters swings and induce a lot poorly struck balls. And obviously he can always just reach back and throw his four-seamer by someone when he needs to.
While he thrived in high school largely because he could simply dominate high school hitters with his fastball, he didn't get as many reps as some prep players do with his off speed offerings, and as a result, they weren't nearly as polished as his fastball. Even so, scouts felt that his curveball had the potential to be a legitimate plus pitch at the Major League level. When he's throwing it well, the curve will get good depth and dive slightly away from right handed batters. He gets in to trouble with the pitch for the same reason most young 3/4 slot pitchers do - he simply fails to stay on top of the pitch at the point of release, and as a result, he loses spin velocity. Turner's changeup also shows some signs of being an above average offering with good velocity differential, and nice fade from lefties, however he still needs to improve his arm speed consistency.
Our sample size with Turner is small, but it's impressive. The strikeout numbers don't aren't elite-level, but a 19 year old who is striking out nearly eight per nine innings between two levels of A-Ball is extremely rare. More impressively, his command is phenomenal regardless of age or level. I also like to see the seven hit batters at Lakeland - not because putting batters on base for free is a good thing - but because it indicates that despite being young, he's not afraid to work inside. That can be a skill that takes years for young pitchers to get comfortable with. He's still hitting more than you want to see, but the fact that he'll come in hard on batters should be seen as a good thing.
I'm not positive Turner is going to fulfill his full potential - he's still very young and at least a year away - but he's got all the tools. His combination of fastballs are both above average and his sinker is a legitimate plus pitch right now. His curve still needs work but it should get there, and if it does, he's going to be very, very tough. He's the rare pitcher who could succeed in all three of the most important areas - getting significant strikeout numbers, allowing few walks, and generating ground balls by the bushel. You almost feel compelled to say his downside is as a #2, though realistically if things really didn't go well he could be more of an innings eating #3. His upside of course is something like Josh Johnson with a curve ball instead of a slider.
Corey Ettinger is a proud contributor to both 612Sports.net and 312Sports.com. He also provides extensive analysis of the American League Central Division at his own blog, AL Central In Focus.