MILWAUKEE -- The first Draft pick in Brewers franchise history was a shortstop, though Gorman Thomas would make his Major League mark in the outfield. Four years later in 1973, the Brewers used their top pick on another prep shortstop in Robin Yount. Paul Molitor ('77), Dale Sveum ('82), Gary Sheffield ('86) and Bill Spiers ('87) were all drafted as shortstops and rose to the Major Leagues.
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Not since Spiers had the Brewers spent their top Draft pick on a shortstop, but that drought ended Monday when the team took 18-year-old Brice Turang 21st overall with the first of their three selections on Day 1. Prep outfielders Joe Gray (No. 60 overall) and Micah Bello (No. 73) rounded out Milwaukee's picks.
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Turang, a 6-foot-1 left-handed hitter from Santiago High School in Corona, Calif., has ties to the Brewers. His father, Brian Turang, was Milwaukee's 20th round pick in 1987 who didn't sign but went on to play in the Majors with the Mariners.
Thirty-one years later, the Brewers called the name Turang again.
"He was someone we were interested in all year," said Brewers scouting director Tod Johnson, "and we're pretty excited it worked out the way it did tonight, to be able to acquire a quality player at a premium position."
Earlier mock drafts had Turang going higher, but he slipped to the bottom third of the first round after hitting .352 with a .464 on-base percentage in his senior season. Milwaukee officials knew him as well as any player in the Draft. Turang played for the Brewers' Area Codes team in California for the past three years, giving area scout Wynn Pelzer, regional scouting supervisor Josh Belovsky and Johnson an opportunity to coach Turang and get to know the player and his family.
It's the second straight year the Brewers have used their top Draft pick on a player from Pelzer's and Belovsky's territory. They followed UC Irvine second baseman Keston Hiura before the Brewers took him at No. 9 overall in 2017.
Belovsky was already dreaming on a Turang-Hiura middle-infield combo. That will take time. First, the Brewers need to sign Turang away from a scholarship offer to LSU. Then, he'll have to navigate a longer Minor League road than Hiura, who was a more advanced hitter coming out of college.
"[Turang] has been on the map for years," Belovsky said. "As a freshman, he was on varsity and hit like .500. He's always had an innate ability to hit and barrel the baseball. At shortstop, he's a premium defender. You're getting a guy who could potentially be an All-Star that can hit at the top of the lineup for you. Plus runner, solid arm, leader on the field. Just a solid overall player."
The 21st pick is assigned a value of $3,013,600.
"We'll see how that plays out, and I'm not concerned about it. I think we'll be able to reach an agreement with them," Johnson said. "His commitment to LSU is strong, and we know he has said previously and consistently that he likes LSU and is willing to go there, but he has also said he wants to start his professional baseball career.
"We're very familiar with him, been in the dugout with him, so that certainly helps us to some degree, but we'll see how that works out, but I expect that we will sign him."
The Brewers used their other Day 1 picks on prep center fielders -- Hattiesburg (Miss.) High School's Gray in the second round, and Hilo (Hawaii) High School's Bello in Competitive Balance Round B.
Gray is a toolsy right-handed hitter with power in his bat and in his throwing arm. Bello, who doesn't turn 18 until July, is a top-of-the-order hitter known for his speed and quick bat. They will join a farm system that lost two young outfielders (Lewis Brinson and Monte Harrison) in a trade with the Marlins for Christian Yelich, but still has eight outfielders among MLB Pipeline's top 30 Brewers prospects, including Nos. 5-8.
Even with that depth, the Brewers see Gray and Bello in center field, Johnson said.
"I just saw [farm director] Tom Flanagan as I walked out, and he said, 'We'll find spots for them all to play,'" Johnson said. "Amassing additional talent is never a bad thing, even if they happen to play the same position."
Like Turang, Gray entered the year ranked higher on some lists but dropped as the Draft neared, in part over concern about swing-and-miss.
"He's made some adjustments this spring that we're pretty excited about continuing with him and getting him in a professional development program to continue to work on his swing and develop that area and his pitch recognition," Johnson said. "And we're excited about getting that athletic package at that spot in the Draft."
The Draft continues on Tuesday with rounds 3-10. The MLB.com preview show begins at 11:30 a.m. CT, with exclusive coverage beginning at noon.