MESA, Ariz. – Brewers prospect Brice Turang is trying to make the most of his first starts in the Cactus League.
Turang, ranked No. 2 on MLB Pipeline’s list of Milwaukee’s top prospects, played a smooth enough shortstop coming into pro ball that he’s already in his third year of appearing in Major League Spring Training games, even though he’s just three months removed from his 21st birthday. On Monday against the Angels, he finally got his first start with the big leaguers, and Turang flashed some power on a breezy day by hitting his first Cactus League home run.
“The most important thing for Brice is just the foundation of being a good hitter,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “Then, the power is going to come as he gets older, stronger and more experienced. That’s the way for a player to develop.
“The focus for Brice is just driving the ball anywhere. Doubles is kind of the focus now. As he gets stronger and more experienced, he can start picking counts to be more aggressive. That ball [against the Angels] was hit in a way that shows there’s plenty of power there. That was a long time. He’s got power in him. We’ve got to be patient with him.”
Multiple at-bats a day are a bonus. Two days after the first Cactus League start of his career, Turang was in the lineup again on Wednesday when the Brewers traveled to Mesa to play the A’s.
“The toughest part for guys like this is it’s generally one at-bat a day,” Counsell said. “Getting multiple at-bats on a day like [Monday] for Brice is a big deal. I’d love to be able to get more at-bats for guys like Garrett Mitchell and Tristen Lutz. That helps the player a lot to make adjustments during a game. Brice is the guy who handles backup shortstop every day, and he’s done a nice job with it.”
Turang has also played some second base, and some scouts project him there in the long term, but Counsell said the Brewers see him as a shortstop. Turang flashed the glove on Tuesday against the Giants by charging the middle of the infield for a slow roller and getting a close out at first base.
That part of Turang’s game -- the defense -- has never been questioned, nor has the speed or the arm or the plate discipline. In 2019, Turang’s first full season after the Brewers made him the 21st overall pick in the ’18 MLB Draft, he led Milwaukee’s Minor League system by working 83 walks while playing for the club’s two Class A affiliates.
The question has been whether he would add power to his line-drive hitting style from the left side, which commonly comes late for prospects as they fill out physically.
“As I get older my body’s going to mature more and I’m going to get stronger naturally,” Turang said. “I’ve been working out and doing a lot of things. I wouldn’t say I necessarily changed my swing much, but my approach was a little different -- trying to crush the ball instead of just trying to find contact. It’s been good. I need to find a median now, hitting the ball while still making solid contact as well. But it’s been good.
“I just want to be myself. I want to be able to play how I play. Power’s going to come. I know I have it; it’s just going to come. So, you can’t be trying to force it. Just hitting the ball hard up the middle is what I’m going to focus on.”
Turang described himself as something of a throwback in today’s technology-dominated game. The Brewers have invested as heavily as any club in the science of hitting and pitching, both in terms of equipment and manpower, but Turang when asked whether tech and analytics are a part of his game said, “Not really.”
“I’ve still got to put the bat on the ball, I’ve still got to have that competitive mindset to win every at-bat,” Turang said. “The perfect swing, there’s never a perfect swing. Everybody’s different. I’d like to believe that what you do in the cage is how you’re going to play in the game. And once you’re in the game, it’s strictly competing. I can’t think about mechanics; I just want to compete. That’s all I can do.”
Turang competed in '20 at the Brewers’ alternate training site, one of the younger prospects sent there to gain experience and avoid losing a full year of development. He is in his first big league camp this spring; in the past two years, Turang appeared in the Cactus League as a player on loan from Minor League camp, always taking over late in games.
The Brewers have pushed Turang in the Minor Leagues, often making him one of the youngest players in his league. In the last Minor League season in '19, he reached the advanced Class A level as a 19-year-old.
“One of Brice’s strengths is he plays with a great aura of confidence,” Counsell said. “It’s swag, is what it is. Sometimes that can be seen as cocky for our generation of older people but it’s not cocky, he just carries himself with the right amount of confidence.”