Jung ready to elevate his game in 2024

January 28th, 2024

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 -- Josh Jung admits -- not that he really has to feel bad about it -- that being “baseball immortal for a couple of months” has been fun on the heels of the first World Series in Texas Rangers history.

The Rangers' third baseman, entering his second full big league season, was almost giddy speaking about this past season before quickly acknowledging that 2024 is here and a brand new season is approaching in the blink of an eye.

In just over two weeks, the Rangers' quest to repeat begins. They know it won’t be easy.

“I think we all know individually how the challenge is going to be,” Jung said ahead of the Rangers Fan Fest on Friday. “Like you're gonna have the big X on your back now, because you have the crown that everyone's going for. The other 29 teams are gunning for you.

“You're gonna get everybody's best no matter what. It's the price you pay, but that's the price you want to have. Like you want everyone to bring their best. It's going to bring out the best in us. I think we're all looking forward to it. I'm sure once we get into camp those conversations will be addressed more.”

And while the Rangers as a whole look to repeat, Jung looks to be even better in 2024.

The third baseman hit .266/.315/.467 with 23 homers in his first full big league season, but landed on the injured list for six weeks with a fractured left thumb.

Pre All-Star break: .280/.331/.504 (88 games)
Post (return from injury): .229/.271/.366 (34 games)

“I had a good season. But I think I could have had a great season,” Jung said.

“But it's always motivation going forward. You always want to be better. Because if you stay the same, somebody's surpassing you somewhere. Just being in the big leagues alone, you have all these guys in the Minor Leagues that are in the same organization, but they're also kind of gunning for your spot, too. You’re always just trying to progress and get better and figure out, 'What areas can I improve?' It’s just the striving for greatness that all of us have.”

There’s no doubt the healing of his thumb affected him at least a little bit upon his initial return following the injury. But Jung insisted, “I don’t want to make excuses.” It wasn’t painful, per se. But the thumb felt numb enough that his grip on the bat wasn’t as strong as possible in those 30 regular-season games following the injury.

Then, finally, his bat woke up in the postseason. Jung slashed .308/.329/.538 with four doubles, three homers and a triple en route to the title. Jung said he leaned on eventual World Series MVP Corey Seager for advice during the postseason.

“I think the biggest thing from the postseason, no matter what the game, no matter where you're playing, just stay relaxed,” Jung said. “Stay in your routine. … But Corey always told us it's just different in the postseason. It just feels different. And I think we all kind of felt that this year. That'll be the challenge to bring that energy every day for 162.”