When the Los Angeles Dodgers traded A.J. Ellis to the Philadelphia Phillies last August, it was viewed as the clubhouse losing one of their key leaders. But during his final interview at Dodger Stadium, Ellis called Justin Turner the “heart and soul” of the Dodgers.
It was high praise from Ellis, who prior to being traded was the longest-tenured Dodger. From Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman to several teammates, similar comments have been echoed about Turner since his joining the organization in 2014.
Turner has transformed his career over the past three seasons, playing his way to an everyday role and becoming a Gold-Glove caliber third baseman. He leads by example but also provides guidance when necessary.
Yasiel Puig has been among the beneficiaries, and recently spoke highly of Turner, via Bill Plunkett of the Southern California News Group:
“He’s always talking to me in the cage, pushing me to be better,” Puig says. “He’s always the one who talks in meetings and helps out his teammates. He’s a big leader on this team.”
Since being named an All-Star in 2014, Puig has endured two consecutive rocky seasons. He was demoted to Triple-A Oklahoma City last August after the Dodgers failed to trade him.
Through 13 games, Puig is batting .326/.426/.674 with three doubles, four home runs and 11 RBI. He leads the team in slugging percentage, home runs, RBI, wOBA (.448) and wRC+ (189).
Perhaps more impressively, the 26-year-old has shown better discipline at the plate, drawing nine walks. Puig drew 26 walks in 2015 and 24 walks last season. He’s the only player to have started in each of the Dodgers this season.
Manager Dave Roberts recently issued some caution over Puig’s hot start to the season, believed he’d be able to sustain it so long as the at-bat quality remained high.