With the 21st pick of the 2018 MLB Draft, the Milwaukee Brewers selected Brice Turang, a high school shortstop from the baseball talent cornucopia known as California. Turang had been touted as a potential first-overall pick earlier in the spring, and his availability at #21 was something no one would have anticipated just a few months earlier. However, middling scouting reports from his senior season, along with a potentially unfair standard and microscope given his longtime status as the top prospect in his class, pushed him down draft boards and made him a steal for the Brewers in the back half of the first round.
After rumors that his signing with the Brewers would be a “toss-up”, Turang, an LSU commit, made the decision to forgo his college eligibility and start his professional career with the Brewers for an over slot-value signing bonus of $3.44 million.
Placed with the Brewers rookie-level Arizona League affiliate, the young shortstop silenced the pre-draft concerns about his bat by hitting .319/.421/.362 through 13 games, showing such an advanced approach and feel at the plate that he was promoted to the Helena Brewers. His batting average dipped a bit to .268, but he posted an on-base percentage of .385, which is especially impressive given he was an 18-year-old playing mostly amongst players who had just been drafted out of the college ranks.
This season, Turang has picked up right where he left off in 2018. The Brewers challenged him with an aggressive assignment to the Single-A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, and he has delivered on all fronts. He currently carries a slash line of .302/.406/.379, and most impressively is walking 14.9% of the time while striking out only 16% of the time. To put into context how impressive that is, the only MLB players right now that have a walk rate of 14.9% or better AND a strikeout rate of 16% or less are Cody Bellinger (2019 NL MVP candidate) Alex Bregman (2019 AL MVP candidate), Carlos Santana (all-star candidate), and Mookie Betts (2018 AL MVP). If Turang can maintain this walk/strikeout profile throughout his journey through the minor leagues, he will find himself in good company when he debuts in Milwaukee.
If you need some extra context to understand how rare this level of hitting prowess is, only 12 of the 1,387 minor-league players with at least 100 at-bats in 2019 have filled that same criteria described above. That accounts for just under one percent of all minor-league batters with at least 100 at-bats.
While the young shortstop excels at controlling the strike-zone and getting on-base, Turang does possess one weakness in his offensive game: his power. Of Turang’s 473 plate appearances as a professional, only two have culminated in him hitting a home run. His isolated power (ISO), a statistic that tells the difference between slugging percentage and batting average, is currently .077. Generally, complete hitters have an ISO of at least .150. Of the four MLB names mentioned above, the lowest ISO is Mookie Betts (.189). To reach the notoriety that those names currently carry as elite hitters, Turang has a bit of work to do in the power department.
Given Turang’s 6-foot-1 frame, it is reasonable to believe that he could grow into a bit more power as he fills out and packs on a little more muscle. Ozzie Albies, now an all-star second baseman with the Atlanta Braves, provided an example of developing his power during his time in the Braves’ minor league system. Through his first three seasons in the minors, Albies hit only seven home runs in nearly 300 games. Then, he broke out for 15 home runs split between the minors and majors in 2017, and added 24 long balls in 2018.
However, given that Turang’s swing is noted as “lacking lift”, it may be best for him to continue focusing on generating a high amount of contact and drawing walks at an elite rate. With this current offensive profile at an MLB-level, Turang would be a perfect candidate to set the table atop the Brewers’ lineup. Any added power is certainly welcome, but it is not necessary for him to be a successful and productive big-leaguer.
Although he likely would arrive in Milwaukee during 2021 at the earliest, it is difficult to not get overly excited about the potential Turang has. Pairing his offensive game with solid defense at a premium position (shortstop) makes him extremely valuable going forward for the Crew.