Jung looks to break into Rangers' crowded infield in '22

January 31st, 2022

ARLINGTON -- Josh Jung thinks this offseason has been his longest time away from baseball. 

The Rangers’ No. 2 prospect kept himself busy with lots of experimental cooking -- “I bought a Traeger and a Blackstone and I have a little smoker” -- and watching new television shows -- “Book of Boba Fett” on Disney+ is a recent favorite -- and even heading back to his alma mater in Lubbock, Texas, to catch up with his brother, 2022 No. 6 Draft prospect Jace Jung, and the Texas Tech baseball team.

It was a much needed rest for the 6-foot-2 third baseman, who slashed .326/.398/.592 with a .990 OPS in 78 games between Double-A Frisco and Triple-A Round Rock in 2022, he explained to a group of reporters when a group of top prospects met at Globe Life Field after an organizational leadership minicamp.

“It's been actually a lot of fun,” Jung said of his downtime. “Finishing the season and giving my foot time to just recover was huge. I took six weeks just completely off. I lifted a little bit towards the end because I was getting the itch. But I took six weeks completely off of baseball, taking a step back and was like ‘Hey, I had a good season, I went through a lot of stuff and I learned a lot. Let's just kind of reflect on it and have some time to myself.’”

Jung is the club's top position player prospect, and the infielder many have been anticipating being stationed at the hot corner since he was selected at No. 8 overall in the 2019 MLB Draft. And he's taken every step necessary to be in Arlington sooner rather than later.

Before Jung made his season debut in June, he said his plan was to “be water” in the batter’s box. Taking the phrase from famed martial artist Bruce Lee, he wanted to refine his mental skills as well as his physical ones as he rehabbed his foot injury.

He admits that it wasn’t always easy, and he struggled early in his return from injury. But once he stopped being so in his head, the baseball part of it came easy.

“I definitely had some moments where I was probably a rock instead of water, being stubborn at the plate,” Jung said. “I was saying to myself, ‘Surrender the result when I'm walking into the box.’ Those two weeks were a struggle and I got just like complacent. I was just saying it and not really being super intentional with my thought process. It was a process but it's fun.”

It was a roller-coaster year for Jung, who was expected to make his MLB debut in 2021, but had a delayed start to the Minor League season with a stress fracture in his right foot suffered during Spring Training. In fact, almost none of Jung’s professional career has gone according to plan.

After the 2019 MLB Draft, he debuted in both Arizona and what was then Low-A Hickory. But then, as he prepared for his first full professional season, the pandemic shut down Minor League Baseball and Jung spent all of the 2020 season on Texas’ taxi squad.

But despite the weird hand he had been dealt throughout his professional career, Jung has thrived every time he was given an opportunity.

“Josh has always impressed as somebody who's going to take advantage of every resource that he has at his disposal,” said Rangers president of baseball operations Jon Daniels. “I mean, he has a genuine curiosity and a desire to improve and I don't think he's just saying what you want to hear. You see with how he acts and the kind of things that he researches on his own. He has such a drive to improve himself.”

It's been two years of anticipation from both the organization and fans, but Jung seems poised for his debut in 2022. It’s unclear whether that’ll be on Opening Day or later in the season, but there’s no doubt Jung will be in Arlington soon.

The Rangers suddenly have a much more crowded infield than before and Jung definitely won't be handed a spot on the Opening Day roster. After the signing of Corey Seager and Marcus Semien to man the middle of the infield, Texas' 2021 starting shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa may slide back over to Jung’s position of third base where he won a Gold Glove in ‘20.

“You want to be optimistic, right?” Jung said about making the Opening Day roster. “Going into camp, it's like, just be healthy and stay healthy. That's the main goal. But the goal is to break with the club at some point this year. I'm not going to put goals or limits on when I want to get there because I truly don't control that portion of it.

“But what I do control is going in every single day and being the best Josh Jung I can be. If that wins me the job, great. If it doesn't, I'm still going to be the same guy wherever I end up to try to ultimately make it to the big leagues at some point. Whether it's Opening Day or June or whenever.”