What losing Justin Turner means for the Dodgers

The Los Angeles Dodgers suffered a significant injury when Justin Turner broke his wrist after being was hit by a pitch Monday night. Turner said the injury was a small nondisplaced fracture, and while the Dodgers didn’t report a potential timetable for his return, he’ll likely be out a few weeks and maybe until the beginning of May.

The Dodgers have multiple options here in the meantime. Logan Forsythe likely slides over to third base, where he started 31 games last season. Chase Utley probably gets more playing time at second, at least against right-handers, but Enrique Hernandez, Chris Taylor and Austin Barnes can all play second as well.

An Utley/Hernandez platoon at second seems like a strong possibility, especially since Matt Kemp has performed well enough in the spring (.317/.341/.659, four home runs) to not only earn a roster spot, but possibly start as the regular left fielder. With Turner out, the Dodgers may need Kemp’s power potential: Remember, this is a guy who slugged 35 home runs two seasons ago and 19 in 115 games with the Braves last season.

Turner’s injury could open up a roster spot for Joc Pederson, who may otherwise have been squeezed out in the glut of outfielders, or perhaps for third catcher/pinch hitter Kyle Farmer. Carrying him would allow Barnes to play some second base (he played 21 games there last season, although he made just four starts). The Dodgers have also raved about the swing changes Hernandez has made, which could allow him to play more against right-handers (in his career, he has an .883 OPS against lefties and just .589 against righties).

A 13-player Opening Day roster could look like this:

Catchers: Yasmani Grandal, Austin Barnes, Kyle Farmer

Infielders: Cody Bellinger, Chase Utley, Corey Seager, Logan Forsythe

Outfielders: Yasiel Puig, Chris Taylor, Matt Kemp, Andrew Toles, Joc Pederson

IF/OF: Enrique Hernandez

Outfielder Alex Verdugo would be the other player in the running for a spot.

Of course, the major concern is whether Turner’s injury lingers, as wrist injuries often do. While the Dodgers won 104 games in 2017, they weren’t necessarily an offensive powerhouse, ranking sixth in the National League in runs scored, a total lifted by the surprise performances of Bellinger and Taylor. Turner, however, was the team’s best all-around hitter, slashing .322/.415/.530 over 130 games with 21 home runs and 71 RBIs. If he hadn’t missed 19 games in May and early June with a hamstring issue, he may have finished in the top three of the MVP voting (he still finished eighth).

Another concern for the Dodgers’ offense is the fact that Corey Seager has been handled carefully after playing through a sore right elbow in the second half last year, an injury that caused him to sit for 10 games at one point and sapped his power down the stretch. He didn’t require offseason surgery, but he has also played just 12 innings in the field so far and, for what it's worth, struggled at the plate, hitting .156 in 32 at-bats.

One thing to watch is how all this affects the defense. Even after shedding a reported 40 pounds, Kemp is unlikely to reverse his trend of terrible defensive metrics (he posted minus-17 defensive runs saved last year, minus-18 in 2016 and minus-15 in 2015). Forsythe graded out as a solid second baseman (plus-5 DRS), while Utley’s range has obviously diminished at his age. Seager will also have to show his elbow is sound. The Dodgers were second in the majors with 66 defensive runs saved last year, a big key to their success. That figure could regress significantly, especially if Kemp actually ends up playing a lot in left field.

None of this probably costs the Dodgers the division, but home-field advantage in the NL certainly figures to be a tough fight. A win or two could be the difference between starting a series at Dodger Stadium or starting one at Wrigley Field (or Nationals Park). Note as well: Twelve of the Dodgers’ first 14 games are against the Giants and Diamondbacks. They also have seven more games against those two clubs in late April/early May, when Turner may or may not be back. If those teams want to catch the Dodgers, they need to take advantage of the Dodgers playing without Turner.