Back-to-back monthly honors underscore Jung's value

June 4th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Kennedi Landry’s Rangers Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

ARLINGTON --  usually has a pretty put-together look about him. His blonde hair is cut short, and his face has been clean shaven almost every day since he joined the big league club last September. 

But the Rangers’ third baseman -- who was just named the American League's Rookie of the Month for the second time this season -- has rocked a different look recently. 

“I got a ‘neard’ going, is what everyone is saying,” Jung joked about his recent facial hair growth. “Just a little neck beard. But it doesn't fill in on the side, so we'll see how long it lasts. On the road, I kept saying that I was on a heater, so I'm just gonna let it ride. So let's see what happens.”

Jung is admittedly a little superstitious, so it makes sense that he wouldn’t shave after his recent stretch. On Friday against the Mariners, the third baseman's career-best 14-game hitting streak came to an end, but during that span, he slashed .434/.492/.793 with a 1.284 OPS to propel him to his second straight AL Rookie of the Month honor.

The 25-year-old third baseman is the first AL rookie to win back-to-back monthly awards since Seattle’s Julio Rodríguez last year (May and June). He also joined Nomar Mazara in 2016 (April and May) as just the second player in Rangers history to take consecutive Rookie of the Month honors. 

Jung finished with a .318/.357/.561/.917 slash line over 26 games in May, ranking among the top qualified AL rookies in slugging (1st, .561), total bases (1st, 60), extra-base hits (1st, 13), runs (1st, 22), hits (T-1st, 34), home runs (T-1st, 6), RBIs (T-1st, 16), batting average (2nd, .318) and OPS (2nd, .918).

“Wow, I mean, he just keeps doing something every day to impress you,” Rangers manager Bruce Bochy said. “I mean, he gives us relentless, playing good baseball on both sides. Man, what a joy he’s been.”

Not only has he been a top rookie, Jung has been one of the best third baseman in MLB this season.

Entering Sunday’s game against the Mariners, Jung ranked among the leaders at third base in almost all offensive categories, including batting average (3rd, .285), OPS (3rd, .847), wRC+ (2nd, 132), and wOBA (5th, .363).  

He’s been everything the Rangers have hoped for from their 2019 first-rounder. He’s honestly been even more. 

Jung had a 26-game cup of coffee in the big leagues at the end of last season, but he struggled to really find his footing coming off the shoulder surgery that delayed his debut. His .204 average in 2022 was never going to be what he consistently produced at the big league level, and over the first two months of this season, he’s showing that. 

“He's just been so wonderful in so many ways that it's hard to identify one specific area,” said general manager Chris Young. “I look back at what he's gone through in terms of the injuries the past couple of years, and really I hate saying this, but in a lot of ways that serves you well, because you learn a lot about yourself. You learn about characteristics like perseverance and resilience and commitment and work ethic, and then you see that pay off. 

“Just the overall maturity of Josh has been wonderful, and I can't say enough what he means to our group and how awesome it's been to see him go out and perform.”