Rangers top prospect Josh Jung has a stress fracture in his left foot, president of baseball ops Jon Daniels announced on Saturday.
The third baseman will travel back to the Dallas-Fort Worth area on Monday to get a screw put in the ankle. The surgery will be performed by Dr. Keith Heier, with a standard recovery time of 6-8 weeks. Daniels said surgery was considered more effective than straight rest and rehabbing of the injury, which could have Jung out for a longer period of time.
“If there's a silver lining, you've got the delayed start to the Minor League season,” Daniels said. “So he really won't miss a lot of time, as far as regular season, but he certainly will miss some time in terms of preparing for it.”
Daniels said Jung started feeling discomfort a couple weeks ago, but it came to a head earlier in the week when he was further evaluated. Jung was made unavailable for the Rangers' Spring Training games against the Dodgers on Friday.
Jung, who went eighth overall in the 2019 MLB Draft, was batting .286 through 10 Cactus League games at the time of the injury. In the ‘19 Minor League season, Jung slashed 316/.389/.443 between Class A Hickory and the Arizona League Rangers.
He was likely to start the 2021 season at Triple-A Round Rock with the hope that he would make his MLB debut at some point over the summer. Daniels said the injury may not seriously impact the timeline for Jung’s debut.
“If things go well, he’ll only miss maybe two weeks or so of the regular Minor League season,” Daniels said. “And then once he goes out and gets rolling and is productive, if he's kind of knocking the door down and performing at a level that we feel like he's ready for the next challenge, we’ll respond.”
Hernández’s injury effect on bullpen
With expected closer Jonathan Hernández shut down to start the season, the Rangers have a lot of figuring out to do with the pitching staff, from top to bottom.
Hernández’s UCL injury opened the door for multiple non-roster invitees to make the 40-man roster, whether as bullpen arms or as part of the piggyback starter roles. It also created a domino effect, where a guy who may have been a one- or two-inning closer now moves into a multiple-inning role.
Matt Bush, Ian Kennedy, Hunter Wood and Hyeon-Jong Yang are big names on the cusp of making the 40-man roster at this point in the spring.
“Any time you lose a guy like Jonathan, it's going to hurt you,” said manager Chris Woodward. “But I think in the short term, you know, it helps us evaluate some guys and maybe give a guy an opportunity that he wouldn't have otherwise.”
Wood, Kennedy and Bush are all on Minor League deals, hoping to break into the lineup, while Yang is more likely to be a multiple-inning reliever or tandem starter. Woodward said those three on Minors deals are in a close competition alongside José Leclerc.
“We're probably not going to have more than the two or maybe three guys that are kind of truly one inning at a time pitchers,” Daniels said. “I think especially in this season, I don't think too many of our starters, especially our younger guys, are going to approach anywhere close to 200 innings. So we're going to need relievers that are flexible and that can cover multiple endings that are resilient.”
Preparation for No. 2 pick
The Rangers have the No. 2 pick in this year’s MLB Draft and the organization is making sure to do its research on the nation’s top Draft prospects. That includes having scouts in Nashville this weekend, where Vanderbilt pitchers Kumar Rocker and Jack Leiter kicked off SEC play. The two are widely considered top-three Draft prospects, along with Dallas-area high school shortstop Jordan Lawler -- who is actually committed to Vanderbilt himself.
Rocker’s Friday night start saw him fan 14 South Carolina batters in the Commodores 3-2 win, giving him a 0.58 ERA on the season.
Leiter somehow did even better in his Saturday start, tossing a no-hitter in his SEC debut. He walked the first batter of the game before proceeding to strike out 16 of the next 27, giving him an astonishing 0.24 ERA. It was Vanderbilt’s first no-hitter since 2019, when Rocker threw one against Duke in that season’s Super Regional.
“I think you can assume that we're going to do our due diligence on all the better players in the country,” Daniels said. “We'll have, to the degree that we're allowed to, we'll have scouts at all the good games.
“I think the opportunity ahead of us is significant -- short and long term. We can add some really impactful talent and some really quality people to the organization. We're doing a lot of work on that right now.”