Brice Turang's MLB Draft Slide Might Be One Teams Regret
As USA Baseball’s 18U director, Matt Blood has gotten a unique chance to get to know many of the top high school prospects in this year’s draft class. As a scout for the Cardinals, he evaluated players with an eye on their pro potential. Those same scouting eyes now work to build the best 18U national team he can every year.
And that means the Blood sees these players from early in their high school career, and then watches them play in showcases, in USA Baseball’s Tournament of Stars, USA Baseball's national team trials and eventually in international competition.
Last year, the prep draft class of 2018 dominated the 18U World Cup. Led by Triston Casas, Brice Turang, Alek Thomas, Ryan Weathers, Cole Wilcox, Kumar Rocker, Ethan Hankins and many other of the top draft prospects for 2018, Team USA went 9-0 against international competition, outscoring its opponents 61-5.
Because he was around those players all summer, Blood got a chance to see them both on and off the field. He got a chance to see how they handle success and how they handle failure.
And as a former scout himself, Blood has strong opinions. His strongest about the 2018 draft class is that Turang appears likely to be picked significantly lower than he should be on the basis of a less-than-expected senior season. Turang was seen as a likely top five pick coming into the year. Now, he's expected to fall into the second half of the first round.
“I think part of it Turang’s performance this spring has not been as remarkable as it was the two years before when he was the best amateur hitter in the country,” Blood said. “When scouts went in to see him this year, they were holding him to a 1-1 standard. When they didn’t necessarily see that, they almost double penalized him for it.
“It’s similar to what happens when a pop-up player outperforms what is expected of him and gets some extra helium. A lot of it is just human psychology. And at the end of the day, Brice is one of the most polished and pro-ready hitters in this draft, who also happens to be an above-average defensive shortstop.”
“I think it’s just basic human psychology more than a it is a trend,” Blood said. “Those who have seen (Turang) succeed over the past couple of years on the big stage against the best competition know what kind of player he is, and will most likely have evaluated him higher than those who haven’t.”
Blood cited Mississippi outfielder Joe Gray as another player who may have fallen down draft boards because he seems less now than scouts projected him to be two years ago. But the player he is now is an athletic above-average defensive outfielder with plenty of power potential.
“I think the Joe Gray vs. Jordyn Adams comparison is another interesting case study,” Blood said. “They have very similar profiles and hit tool question marks but had very different expectations and scouting focus during exposure opportunities. Both players have huge upside, but Adams has more unknowns and is projected to go higher in the draft.”
In the draft, recency bias almost always trumps past performance. We’ll find out in five to 10 years whether that’s a wise choice.