Turner brings new dimension to Phillies' lineup

February 18th, 2023

CLEARWATER, Fla. --  grinned. He knows his spot in the Phillies lineup has become something of an obsession for fans.

First? Second? Third?

“I’m just a big learn-your-job guy,” Turner said Saturday morning at BayCare Ballpark. “I want to know what my job is. What do you expect of me? I think sometimes that’s hard moving around in the lineup. So, wherever I do hit, I’d like to stick there and just kind of learn who’s in front of me, who’s behind me and [learn] how pitchers are going to pitch the guy in front of me, the guy behind me. I think that helps everybody, not just me.”

Turner signed an 11-year, $300 million contract with the Phillies in December, giving them more reason to believe they can not only repeat as National League champions, but win the World Series. He has been one of baseball’s best players for years. His arrival has everybody salivating about what he could do atop an already formidable lineup. Phillies manager Rob Thomson said Turner will start the season hitting first while Bryce Harper recovers from Tommy John surgery. Kyle Schwarber could hit leadoff when Harper returns in June or July. Turner could then drop to second, separating the left-handed hitters.

But it doesn’t really matter where Turner hits.

Look at his career splits in the 1-2-3 holes:

First: .303/.353/.488 
Second: .305/.359/.493 
Third: .311/.367/.510

The Phillies have not had a dynamic hitter like Turner in more than 15 years. His .301 batting average in 651 games from 2018-22 is fourth out of 147 qualified batters. His .486 slugging percentage is 39th. The Phillies have not had a player with a .301 or better batting average and a .486 or better slugging percentage over a 650-game span since Chase Utley (.301 batting average, .530 slugging percentage) from 2006-10.

The Phillies have had only eight players like that since 1920: Bobby Abreu, Dick Allen, Del Ennis, Don Hurst, Chuck Klein, Greg Luzinski, Utley and Cy Williams.

Klein is in the Hall of Fame. Abreu, Allen and Utley could be there at some point. Luzinski was one of the most feared hitters of his era, finishing in the top 10 for NL MVP each year from 1975-78. Ennis was one of the most feared hitters of his era, too.

“We’ve got a big-time player in Turner,” former Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. “It’s so much easier to find a balanced lineup when you have a guy like him.” 

Manuel and Larry Bowa are in camp as guest instructors. They managed Abreu and Utley. Bowa played with Luzinski.

They appreciate the skillset Turner brings to the lineup. They love his speed. Turner’s sprint speed (30.3 feet per second) ranked fifth out of 582 players in 2022. It translated into 149 stolen bases over the past five seasons, which leads baseball.

“He can disrupt everything,” Bowa said. “If he’s on first in the seventh inning, you’ve got infielders moving in and moving closer to the bag. Now what’s that do? The shift is gone now. That opens up holes. That opens up a ton of holes. It opens up the whole field. It makes guys think, ‘I’ve got to get rid of this ball because Trea Turner is coming down here.’ Before the series even starts, teams will say, ‘This guy runs the bases unbelievably well. He’s quick. He’s going to take the extra base.’ The seed is planted before you even start a three-game series. Teams go into a series and they’ll say, ‘Whatever happens, I don’t want Nolan Arenado beating us.’ There’s always a guy. This guy can bring that attention to a clubhouse.

“And he wants to play. All those guys wanted to play: Bobby, Chase, Bull. When you’re making a lineup as a manager, you put their name in there every day. And it means a lot to the ballclub. Trea can beat you so many ways. He can hit a bomb. He can get a single, steal second, steal third. He can get a base hit with two men on. There are so many tools that he has to beat you.”

He will fit nicely wherever Thomson hits him. Turner said he is already fitting in with his new teammates.

“I feel like I’ve gotten more crap talked to me these last few days than I have in a long time, and that’s probably a good thing,” he said. “I like it. You can take it and dish it. So it’s a good start for me. It’s a good sign. I think that’s what makes it fun.”