The offseason is well under way and A.J. Preller is ready to add more talent to the 4th best farm system in the league.
However, fans should keep their eyes on next summer’s MLB Amateur Draft. In recent years, the avenue has provided thrilling players. from stud lefty Mackenzie Gore to tantalizing outfielder Michael Gettys. Yet scouts have credited this year’s class as the best since 2011. As such, San Diego, with its seventh overall pick, will be in a prime spot to draft future stars. Here are some names to key an eye on as we head into the 2018 draft.
For all the griping about how the Padres have not had a successful shortstop for a long time, the same can be said of third base. Sure, Chase Headley produced a star 2012 season when he carried a slash line of .286/.376./.498 with 31 home runs, 17 stolen bases, a silver slugger award, and a gold glove, but that year was more of an aberration for him. It was not solid proof that the Padres had a legit corner infielder. Also, the situation does not appear to become any brighter in the near future. Cory Spangenberg, while a speedy player with some upside left, does not possess the power that a regular third baseman is known for. Hudson Potts may rectify that situation, especially since he, a 19-year-old, hit 20 bombs in Single-A this year. However, as of right now, he strikes out too much and hasn’t shown a great hit tool. In other words, he may be a solid contributor someday, but it’s too soon to claim him as the third baseman of San Diego’s future.
With all that being said, selecting an electrifying presence at the hot corner may be a path Preller decides to go down. Third baseman Nolan Gorman, a lefty from Arizona, has the makings of a superstar. His power, given a 60 grade by conservative evaluators, is his main draw. He won the 2017 MLB All-Star Game High School Home Run Derby in Miami and the Under Armour All-American Game Home Run Derby in Chicago, to become the best high school power hitter. Some even say that he possesses double plus raw strength which would equate to at least 30 long balls per year. Moreover, scouts note that he has a knack for accessing that power in game action. In 82 high school contests, Gorman has collected 22 round trippers. That’s an incredible stat for a kid yet to play his senior year. And for the Friars, this is huge considering that the team’s strongest minor leaguers, such as Josh Naylor and Jorge Ona, struggle to deliver pop during match-ups. In other words, he will not fail expectations.
On defense, the Arizona prep athlete has exhibited smooth footwork, soft hands, clean actions, and strong arm strength, according to Perfect Game reports. These qualities make up a defensively gifted player, one who could become a defensive asset. But what’s even more positive about the 17-year-old is that he has developed as a shortstop in high school. While his below average speed will sever his ties to that position, the experience enhances his potential at others. The range he must have had to play short should carry over to his more fitting home at third. There is a solid chance that the youngster transforms into a plus defender.
The few things Gorman lacks include below-average speed, although he is athletic, and a swing vulnerable to strikeouts. Yet, these concerns are quite small and shouldn’t be a bearing on the kid’s overall projection.
Overall, there is so much potential in Gorman. He has some of the best power in the 2018 class, and possibly even the best in a group of sluggers led by heavyweights Seth Beer and Luken Baker. He readily proves that strength in game action, unlike some Padres’ prospects currently. He has an uncanny ability to hit for a high average and, according to Perfect Game, appears to get a hit every time at bat. He is no slouch defensively due to shortstop experience and great actions on the field.
Before discussing another player, there is an interesting tidbit on him. He possesses 70 grade strength, the same level as superstar Kris Bryant when he was drafted. That’s some scary power and could impact the Padres’ future a lot.
The old and arguably cliche adage that “you can never have too many pitchers” can be applied to shortstops. They often have the extremely valuable capability to play mulitple positions, from second and third, to even center field, like Trea Turner. As such, they could be enticing enough for Preller to grab one early in the 2018 draft.
With the number seven pick, there are two reasonable shortstop options. Brice Turang, a high schooler occasionally compared to Christian Yelich, is one of them. He has lofty expectations mainly because of his plus bat. During his junior year, he hit for a .465 batting average with only one strikeout in 101 at-bats. That’s a ridiculous .99% K rate and is generated from an advanced system of planning. He is aware of what should be done in each trip to the plate and is not afraid to battle tough pitchers. At the Perfect Game Nationals in Petco Park’s beautiful confines, the shortstop endured a ten-pitch battle against Kumar Rocker, a premier right-hander on the mound. In those ten pitches, six were foul balls, indicating that Brice works counts against premier opposition and puts his teammates in better hitting conditions. Furthermore, if you take a look at some of his video, you would be extremely enthralled by Turang’s smooth swing. The way the ball comes off his bat looks unreal because of the graceful way in which he swings. These are all exceptional fundamentals for the California high schooler.
Besides the magnificent hitting tool he carries, Turang also possesses plus speed. Scouts who compare him to Yelich say that the 18-year-old is slightly faster. To fully understand the significance of this and make a reasonable projection for Brice, we must look at how Yelich has done in his career. Since first appearing in the majors in 2013, the Miami star has stolen double digits, maxing out at 21 in 2014. In 2017, he ranked as the 39th fastest base runner in all of baseball due to a 28.7 ft/sec sprint speed. His accomplishments then paint a favorable picture for Turang. If the Padres were to select him, they may receive a talent capable of stealing at least twenty bases per season. The kid could steal an even greater amount, though, if he takes a more aggressive approach to base running then Yelich. There is risk to such an attack as carelessness may lead to unnecessary outs on the bases. As such, he must learn to appropriately choose his spots. Either way, there is a strong chance for Turang transforming into one of the game’s better speed threats.
Finally, Brice Turang combines his considerable offensive talents with good defense. Both his arm and glove rate as above-average to scouts and his skills play up due to smooth actions. While the defensive chops will never garner Andrelton Simmons comps, there is enough to assume the player from Santiago High will be a contributor in the field. When discussing Turang’s most valuable asset on defense, range must be at the top. As previously noted, he is a plus runner. But, that doesn’t just aid him when on the bases. Rather the fleet-footed nature enables Brice to make plays further in the gaps than other shortstops can. There is little he can’t get to and his arm allows him to finish tough plays. The most important facet to remember is that he will stay at short. Scouts sometimes note how high school shortstops rarely stay at the position due to a number of factors including size and potential fielding ability. For example, previously mentioned Nolan Gorman will not remain there because of his big size and therefore limited range. He was just the school’s best option. However, there is no doubt for Turang. In fact, he might represent a better option than status down the line as Tatis’ future position is still in question. Many scouts still see third base as his long-term home.
Overall, Brice Turang is a solid player. He combines an exceptional hit tool with the know-how to avoid strikeouts and get on base at a high clip. He has fast legs that allow him to be a difference maker on the bases. There is a strong possibility that double digit stolen bases are in his future. Also, he has neat actions on defense. The wide range and mighty arm he possesses qualifies him as an above-average shortstop. There is no question whether he will have to change positions eventually.
Why he will remain on the board for the Padres may be a question some ask. Well, two main factors have caused a decline in his stock. First, another high school shortstop, Nander de Sedas, has emerged to rival Turang. They are very similar, but Sedas has an edge in power, which teams value even if it comes with a drop off in speed. Also, Sedas has blasted onto the radar recently while the Santiago high school experienced years of attention. He could be suffering from prospect fatigue as a result. Secondly, there are concerns on Brice’s own future power output. He appears to be more of a line drive type hitter, especially if you look at video of him. However, teams who have closely examined the California player suggest that he will take Yelich’s route. Yelich grew into more over-the-fence pop as his career developed. In 2016, the outfielder swatted 21 home runs. With the same swing, talent evaluators expect Turang to show similar strength. At the end of the day though, it’s a question mark only comforted by hope right now.
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