What Wong's option means for top prospect

November 18th, 2022

This story was excerpted from Adam McCalvy's Brewers Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Brewers general manager Matt Arnold was surprised that anyone was surprised when the club exercised its $10 million option to bring back second baseman Kolten Wong -- essentially an $8 million expenditure because Wong had a $2 million buyout.

But here’s why some people were caught a bit off-guard: Brice Turang, the Brewers’ No. 4 prospect per MLB Pipeline, is knocking on the door of the big leagues. As of this week, Turang is on the 40-man roster.

Turang was the organization’s easiest addition at Tuesday’s 40-man deadline because the Brewers can’t risk exposing him to the Rule 5 Draft. He won’t turn 23 until the day before Thanksgiving, and he’s already logged 779 plate appearances over parts of two seasons at Triple-A with a .277/.365/.391 slash line. He’s played second base, third base and center field in addition to his natural shortstop. With Wong returning to play second, Willy Adames entrenched at shortstop and Luis Urías presumably the frontrunner to get at-bats at third, where does that leave Turang?

“Look, Brice has definitely put himself on the map very squarely with us,” Arnold said. “The thing about Brice is he can play a lot of different positions for us, right? The versatility is always something we value a ton. These things typically work themselves out, so having a guy of that caliber of talent and that kind of versatility is always going to be a good thing.”

Here’s one option: Slot Turang into Jace Peterson’s role if the Brewers don’t bring the free agent Peterson back. Turang is a left-handed hitter and could pick up at-bats alongside right-handed-hitting Urías at third while occasionally spelling Adames at shortstop. Turang also has his full complement of Minor League options.

Asked how it will play out, Arnold said, “Hard to say at this point. Look, [Turang] has obviously put himself squarely in play here with how well he did at Triple-A. I think it depends on a lot of other factors.”

Turang was one of four additions to the 40-man, with fellow prospects Abner Uribe and Cam Robinson and veteran slugger Jon Singleton. Arnold shared his thoughts about Singleton’s unique story earlier this week.

For Uribe, the keys are command and good health. The 22-year-old had both in the Arizona Fall League, where he struck out 14 versus two walks in nine appearances as he made up some innings lost to an early-season left knee injury. He has only two innings at Double-A, but if Uribe stays healthy and throws strikes, he has a chance to move very fast in 2023.

“It’s just a huge credit to what he’s been able to do since getting healthy,” Arnold said. “Now, he’s back to throwing in the upper 90s, touching low 100s. That’s an exciting thing and a really exciting arm to have in our mix. He’s done a really good job, and it’s a huge credit to him and our international staff for working hard to unearth guys like this. It’s a great organizational win, I think, when you have a guy that’s been developed here.”

Robinson is another good player-development story. He was a 23rd-round Draft pick in 2017 who sputtered early in his Minor League career and lost the ‘20 season to the pandemic. But he gained some bulk and velocity in ‘21 and built on that in ‘22, when he had a 2.49 ERA and shot from High-A to Triple-A.

“This guy has continued to get better across the board,” Arnold said. “He’s continued to trend in the right direction with his arm, his stuff, his cutter. He’s gotten a lot of attention across the industry, and we’re excited to have him on the roster.”

As for more on Turang, I wrote about him and his absurdly athletic family last spring during the Brewers’ Minor League camp.