Tony Gwynn Jr. could be the Dodgers’ starting center fielder

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Tony Gwynn Jr. was non-tendered by the Padres, but ESPN Los Angels reports that he may be good enough to start for the Dodgers:

As he prepared to leave baseball’s quarterly owners’ meetings, [Ned] Colletti said Gwynn’s speed and defensive ability were strong enough that if he can return to form offensively — he hit just .204 for the San Diego Padres last year — he could wind up as the regular center fielder, withMatt Kemp moving to right and Andre Ethier to left.

I don’t know what “return to form” means in DodgerLand, but Gwynn has hit just .244/.323/.314 in 1,054 plate appearances. He’s 28. What you see is what you get.

Which doesn’t mean he’s useless, of course. He’s got a great glove and he’s fast.  If he can pull off even a slight uptick from his career norms — if he can get just one extra flare a week, just one – a gork, a groundball, a groundball with eyes … if he can get a dying quail, just one more dying quail a week — he could be a useful starter.

Personally, though, I’d rather have Matt Kemp in center and a nice platoon in left involving Jay Gibbons and someone.

Justin Turner is a postseason monster

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A not-insignificant amount of the Dodgers’ success in recent years has to do with the emergence of Justin Turner. In his first five seasons with the Orioles and Mets, he was a forgettable infielder who had versatility, but no power. The Mets non-tendered him after the 2013 season, a move they now really regret.

In four regular seasons since, as a Dodger, Turner has hit an aggregate .303/.378/.502. His 162-game averages over those four seasons: 23 home runs, 36 doubles, 83 RBI, 80 runs scored. And he’s also a pretty good third baseman, it turns out. The Dodgers have averaged 95 wins per season over the past four years.

Turner, 32, has gotten better and better with each passing year. This year, he drew more walks (59) than strikeouts (56), a club only five other players (min. 300 PA) belonged to, and he trailed only Joey Votto (1.61) in BB/K ratio (1.05). He zoomed past his previous career-high in OPS, finishing at .945. His .415 on-base percentage was fourth-best in baseball. His batting average was fifth-best and only nine points behind NL batting champion Charlie Blackmon.

It doesn’t seem possible, but Turner has been even better in the postseason. He exemplified that with his walk-off home run to win Game 2 of the NLCS against the Cubs. Overall, entering Wednesday night’s action, he was batting .363/.474/.613 in 97 postseason plate appearances. In Game 4, he went 2-for-2 with two walks, a single, and a solo home run. That increases his postseason slash line to .378/.495/.659, now across 101 plate appearances. That’s a 1.154 OPS. The career-high regular season OPS for future first-ballot Hall of Famer Albert Pujols was 1.114 in 2008, when he won his third career MVP Award. Statistically, in the postseason, Turner hits slightly better than Pujols did in the prime of his career. Of course, we should adjust for leagues and parks and all that, but to even be in that neighborhood is incredible.

In the age of stats, the concept of “clutch” has rightfully eroded. We don’t really allow players to ascend to godlike levels anymore like the way we did Derek Jeter, for instance. (Jeter’s career OPS in the playoffs, by the way, was a comparatively pitiful .838.) Turner isn’t clutch; he’s just a damn good hitter whose careful approach at the plate has allowed him to shine in the postseason and the Dodgers can’t imagine life without him.