I’ve said this is a weak draft, and I think it is, but it’s not bereft of talent. All of the talent is pretty flawed, but if that talent is able to address flaws this year there are 5 or 6 guys with real star potential and several possible MLB regulars. Most won’t pan out, so this is where the Scouts will make their money this year.
Brice Turang is a 6’0”, 165 lb. Left handed hitter who plays Shortstop from Corona, Ca. Somehow he’s the only top ranked High School prospect from California on most lists. That’s really bizarre for a state that typically litters the first round of the draft with players. Turang gets some interesting comps for a shortstop, the most common one I’ve seen is Christian Yelich. I can see it, we’ll talk tools more below, but they line up pretty well (if you project some Power as he fills out).
Defensively, Turang has the speed (60-70 on the scouting scale given reported times I’ve seen - I think some may have been bunt times, but were not specified) and glove for Shortstop. Scouting reports consistently note his strong footwork and advanced instincts (perhaps owing that to his father Brian, a utility player with the Mariners in the mid-90’s). His Defensive question mark is his arm, which is solidly average. His footwork helps it play up, but a move to Center (where he has played some) or over to Second is possible. Scouts seem split on this, but more seem to think he’ll stick than not.
Offensively, Turang struck out last season at a truly astonishing rate. Once. He had one, single strikeout in his entire High School season (he added 2 more K’s in the Tournament of Stars - USA Baseball event over the Summer, where he struggled in a very small sample -though still drew more Walks (4) and more Hits (4) each than K’s). His swing looks nearly identical to Yelich, but, at present his Power is 45 or 50 (one 55), depending upon the scouting report you read. Turang is most well regarded for his contact skills and his discipline in not expanding his zone. He’s said in interviews his goal is to hit the pitch over the plate, he doesn’t guess. He looks for the pitch and swings when he gets it.
High School hit tools are the Rorschach tests of the scouting world. Even the best High School Pitchers have average off speed pitches, at best, so a guy like Turang doesn’t have to do much guessing anyway. It’s almost always a Fastball and when it isn’t, it’s more recognizable and hittable than most of what he’ll see in the pros. That’s why struggles at showcase events can worry scouts, since the best Pitchers tend to be concentrated there. Still, Turang plays in southern California, which is pretty high in overall talent level already.
It’s video time. First from the 2016 Tournament of Stars (full disclosure, I attended at a few points that week, but did not take any notes specifically on Turang, though I did see him), the video is from Prospect Pipeline. It starts off with running (Brice on the Right side), then some Defense and finally hitting (BP). I’m going to briefly go on a tangent here to note that when guys make it to pro ball I never review BP clips. I have no interest in them, many guys have different BP swings. I end up using them often in my previews here because that’s what I find, so take every word I say about BP videos with a big ole salt lick. Now, back to the video. Small kick and step, head stays level and swing is line drive oriented. Hand load is pretty minimal. I like it, if the game swing is as good, I think the hit tool may actually be underrated at the Plus, I’ve seen elsewhere.
Supporting what I said before, he’s game tape from last Summer’s Area Code games in California. His game swing looks, to me, like a longer stride than BP. This video also ends with a fine Defensive play from Brice where he channels his best Derek Jeter with the classic jump throw to maximize throw speed.
Turang could easily end up the First pick and he also checks a lot of traditional Phillies boxes: Southern Cal, toolsy, projectable, reminds people of Yelich. I’m a fan, not a huge fan, but a fan. The K rate is rather unbelievable, the speed is fun and if he can stay at Short, that’s great flexibility. My only concern is the Phillies seem to be doing their best to corner the market on non-Christian Yelich, Christian Yeliches and I like me some variety.