By DAN ZIELINSKI
Major league teams have started signing their 2018 MLB draft picks. The Milwaukee Brewers have made some news by inking four of their first 10 selections.
But of the players the Brewers have signed to professional deals, none of them include their top two picks in California prep shortstop Brice Turang and Mississippi prep outfielder Joe Gray Jr.
The Brewers selected Turang in the first round and Gray in the second. Both prep players were considered top first-round picks in 2017 before experiencing mixed results this spring, which caused their draft stocks to take a hit.
It was an interesting but risky approach for the Brewers.
If Turang or Gray attend college instead of signing a professional contract, it’ll make the 2018 draft a failure for the Brewers.
The two players will likely cost the Brewers a significant amount of their draft signing bonus pool of $6,611,900. Because of that, the Brewers had to select multiple players who would command below-slot deals with their final eight picks in the first 10 rounds.
If either player doesn’t sign, the Brewers would also lose the signing bonus money associated with the pick.
The Brewers have struggled in recent years with drafting and developing first-round talent. Turang, who the Brewers tabbed with the 21st overall pick, has the potential to mature into the top player from the 2018 draft class.
Professional scouts considered him as the top prospect in this year’s draft class last June. But his inability to stand out amongst other competitors this spring, along with being nitpicked by scouts, hurt his draft stock. He hit .352 with 5 home runs, 21 RBIs and a .464 on-base percentage as a senior this spring.
A left-handed hitter, Turang is capable of hitting line drives to all parts of the field and will be a top-of-the-order bat. Although he possesses average power, scouts expect him to hit around 15 homers in the major leagues.
Expected to stick at shortstop long-term, Turang has above-average speed, arm strength and fielding ability.
The suggested signing bonus for the draft pick is worth $3,013,600. But Turang has a strong commitment to LSU and will likely command an above-slot deal.
The Brewers drafted Gray with the 60th overall pick. He was also once considered a high-end prep talent, but his inability to make consistent contact this spring caused him to slide on draft day.
He has five-tool potential but scouts have swing and miss concerns with Gray. His best tools are his above-average arm strength and power at the plate. He will start in center field with the Brewers but also profiles well in right field.
Gray is a 6-foot-3, 195-pound 18-year-old with a commitment to Mississippi. The suggested signing bonus value is slightly over $1.1 million. He’ll also likely command an over-slot deal to bypass college.
The deadline to sign draft prospects is July 6. Last year, three players selected in the first 10 rounds didn’t sign, while two prospects didn’t agree to terms on a deal in 2016.
History suggests the Brewers will sign Turang and Gray. But if either player rejects the Brewers’ offer to turn pro, it’ll mark a disappointing draft year for the Brewers.