Detroit Tigers Prospect #17: Josh Turley the Knuckleballer
It’s been a long time since the Detroit Tigers have had a knuckleball pitcher on staff. In 2014, Danny Worth was the last Tiger to throw a knuckleball, but he wasn’t technically a pitcher. Otherwise, Steve Sparks was the last pitcher to throw a regular knuckleball for the Tigers, and he did not last long. The #17 prospect on our Motor City Bengals list mixes in the deceptive pitch and he throws it hard.
Joshua Turley is from Texarkana, Texas and went to Baylor University in Waco. He was originally drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers out of high school and then by the Tigers in 2012 after two years of college baseball. In 2009, he was drafted in the 36th round, after college baseball, he was drafted in the 16th round.
As a college player, he holds two Big 12 records for fewest walks allowed in 9 innings, one in a season and the other in a career. He allowed 1.36 average walks-per-nine in the 2011 season and in his career he allowed an average of 2.09. He also finished in the top ten in the Big 12 in strikeout-to-walk ratio and WHIP.
His success at Baylor carried over into his minor league career with the Tigers organization. Turley began his career with the Tigers at the Single-A- Connecticut Tigers in 2012. He pitched in 34 innings with a 1.06 ERA and 0.82 WHIP. From there, he has pitched for the West Michigan Whitecaps, Lakeland Flying Tigers, and the Erie Seawolves. In his four seasons in the minor leagues, Turley has a 2.60 ERA in 412 innings with a WHIP of 1.110.
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Turley is a bit small for a starting pitcher. At 6’0 tall and 185, he is close in size to Anibal Sanchez. Like Sanchez, Turley does not have a knock-out fastball, but he is able to deceive the batters with his release and the ball’s movement. During Turley’s 2015 season in Double-A, batters against him have hit an average of .252. He was named an All-Star in 2012, 2014, and 2015.
What makes Turley an effective pitcher is the fact that he mixes up his pitches. The lefty throws a fastball, cutter, change-up, and curve. In 2014, he developed a knuckleball as a fun pitch in a game of catch. Much to his surprise, he found that he could throw it effectively. His fastball rarely gets above 90 mph, but when he mixes in the knuckleball he gets swings and misses from opposing batters.
According to Lynn Henning from The Detroit News, Turley is a pitcher who could throw effectively in front of a large crowd. He loves the game and understands the art of pitching. His coach, Mike Henneman, believes that Turley will most likely not be a starter, but will be a long reliever, like Alex Wilson. However, Turley has started in 47 games out of 115 in his minor league career. He will start the 2016 season in Erie, but expect him to move to Triple-A Toledo soon.
Next: Detroit Tigers Prospect #18: Austin Kubitza
One of his biggest successes in the minor leagues was a nearly no-hitter he had on July 4, 2014. By the time he reached the Independence Day game, he was 7-0 with a 1.69 ERA. He went into the seventh inning with a no-hitter against the minor league Class-A Advanced Yankees. The game went into 12 innings with the Yankees winning. Turley had eight strikeouts, three walks, and two hits in the seventh. Even though the team lost, Turley’s pitching was outstanding.