The Tigers preference is still a veteran, but options remain in the organization. At the top of the in-house list appears to be Jacob Turner. The youthful Turner was selected in the 2009 draft out of high school with the ninth overall pick. In the past, the Tigers have not been bashful about promoting young talent to the big leagues. Justin Verlander (22), Joel Zumaya (21), Andrew Miller (21) and Jeremy Bonderman (20) all reached the big leagues at a young age. Granted Bonderman's arrival was out of necessity. Turner will be 21 in May and had a taste of major league life last season.
Turner has all of the tools and is widely considered one of the game's top pitching prospects. In fact any deal for an established big league pitcher this off season started with Turner going the other way. One scout I talked to this winter described him as a potential number 2 and felt that he possessed a plus fastball, plus curve and good change-up. Other scouts feel his potential may be even higher. Pitching coach Jeff Jones said during the Tigers caravan that the change-up needs some refining, but the ability to have a big career is there.
This a big off season for the St. Charles, MO native. Considering that the Tigers have not been able to secure the services of a veteran pitcher at this point, Turner has worked hard this off season to get himself ready for the competition that awaits in Lakeland in February and March. In 43 minor league starts, Turner has a 1.14 WHIP and is averaging almost eight strikeouts per nine innings.
At the end of last season, Jim Leyland hinted that Turner might be better served with a little more seasoning in the minor leagues in 2012. Yet, a strong spring could provided Turner with an opportunity if he out-pitches the other options in the organization. One thing is for certain, the pressure on the 6'5" right-hander would be minimized by the talent in the big league rotation. However, I can't help but to think about the fact that Turner was pitching in high school just a year and a half ago. I got the feeling that Leyland thought the youngster needed more time following his brief big league cameo last year.
Turner is a year older and his future may be now. Is he ready for the next step in his career. It looks like we may find out this April.