A year ago, high school shortstop Brice Turang was a leading candidate to go one/one in the 2018 MLB draft. That’s not going to happen now. Turang is still a first-round talent and could still be an early pick, but his chance to go first-overall has faded. Let’s explore.
The basics first.
Turang is a prep shortstop from Santiago High School in Corona, California. He has been on the radar for years, which is both a blessing and a curse (more on that in a moment). He’s been on the showcase circuit since 2014. He played for Team USA in both 2016 and 2017. He’s also a bloodline talent, as the son of former MLBer Brian Turang.
As a California player scouts have had many looks at Brice during the high school regular season and during summer play against top competition. Name an important player evaluation event and Turang has likely been there. He’s also a much-coveted college recruit with a Louisiana State scholarship as leverage.
Physically, Turang is a left-handed hitter and right-handed thrower born November 21, 1999. He isn’t one of the younger players in the prep class, but he’s not one of the older ones either. He was 5-10, 150 a few years ago but has matured out to 6-1, 165.
His best physical tool is running speed, with grades varying between 60 and 70 depending on the source; you can split the difference and give him a 65 if you like. He has a good arm, too, 55 or 60 depending on the source. He has loose, easy athletic actions and looks natural in the infield. The tools fit those of a major league shortstop and that by itself makes him worthy of notice.
What about the bat? Well, that’s good, too. Turang has a sound sense of the strike zone and is one of the best pure hitters in the draft. The general consensus is that he’ll hit for average and get on base and will need less refinement than most high school bats.
Power projection is the only real question. As noted above he doesn’t carry a lot of weight on his frame and that’s led to doubts about his power at higher levels despite his refinement as a hitter.
Optimists point to Turang’s impressive power displays in batting practice, Perfect Game noting that Turang shows “a really smooth lefthanded stroke and turned on the barrel with authority. He currently has probably average raw power and you can project a bit more than that at the next level.” That said, PG also notes that Turang’s approach seems to change in actual games, where he doesn’t unleash his power as readily.
Other sources pick up on that, MLB.com noting Turang uses a “high-contact, line-drive spray kind of approach” in live games. That fact, combined with a frame that may not have much room to add additional strength, pushes him down draft boards for many clubs.
Familiarity can breed contempt, the old saying goes. Baseball America summarizes this well in their draft report:
Because of his exposure and history as a talented player at such a young age, teams have been somewhat disappointed with Turang since last summer. He’s never struggled, but he’s also never wowed scouts in the same way that he did as an underclassman.
There are a couple of ways you can look at this.
***Turang has been nitpicked in favor of shiny new toys and it has unfairly impacted his draft status; or
***Turang is more polished and experienced than most of his peers and has less room to grow as a player, particularly as a hitter.
The thing is, these statements are not in contradiction. Both can be true and I think they are.
So, where does he land in the draft?
The perceived safety of college players and the normal lust for pitching has pushed Turang out of the top five. Most mock drafts have Turang as a candidate starting in the teens, with some projecting that he could fall into the late 20s.
At that point signability comes into play. If he falls too low, it could be tempting for him to pass on an offer he doesn’t like, go to LSU, rake for three years, then (hopefully) shoot back to the top with a larger paycheck in 2021.
All that said, if you step back and look objectively you’ll see a player with a proven track record who should be handle shortstop in the majors while hitting for average, getting on base, stealing while there, and who could develop more in-game pop if the power optimists are right.
It would not surprise me if Turang ends up going a bit higher than currently expected.
2080 Baseball Video
Taiwan Baseball Notes video