Inbox: Will Jung make Opening Day roster?

September 27th, 2021

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers are 156 games into the 2021 season and a loss away from their 100th.

And though this season hasn’t exactly been the height of baseball, it’s nothing that wasn’t expected coming into the year. With the rebuild in full swing, there are still plenty of questions before the Rangers head into postseason planning.

Here’s one last Inbox for the regular season:

Do you think Josh Jung is the Rangers' starting third baseman on Opening Day 2022 or do you think they'll start him out in Triple-A?
-- @hannahbaugh on Twitter

If there’s one thing I would bet on, it’s that Jung -- the Rangers' No. 2 prospect and top-ranked position player per MLB Pipeline -- will be the Opening Day third baseman. The dude’s a stud and he's hit consistently at all levels of the game. He honestly should have made his debut this season, but a left foot injury delayed his development. Between Double-A Frisco and Triple-A Round Rock in 2021, Jung has slashed .317/.386/.571 with a .958 OPS and 17 home runs.

The Rangers have been careful to not rush top prospects to the big leagues, but barring some unforeseen circumstances or an absolutely terrible camp, I believe Jung will be on the Opening Day roster. He's earned it.

What letter grade would you give the Rangers this season. It was really tough to watch as a fan. For the first time in 20 years, I actively chose to not watch games. I usually see 140-plus a season.
-- @TheComicSource on Twitter

On the field, at the big league level, the Rangers have clearly left a lot to be desired. One loss away from the first 100-loss season since 1973 is not exactly an A+. The on-field product specifically, I would have to give a D, and that’s mostly because they couldn’t come close to being what the Orioles and D-backs are displaying this season.

But all things considered, I think the Rangers made do with what they could in a clear rebuild year and made the best out of it. Behind the scenes -- Trade Deadline returns and farm system development -- I would give them a B+. I really liked the return for Joey Gallo from the Yankees, all of whom are in the Rangers’ Top 30 prospects list. And while Spencer Howard is a work in progress, the organization is really encouraged by him going forward.

What roles will Jung, Cole Winn, Andy Ibáñez and Curtis Terry have in 2022?
-- @jeffboersma on Twitter

Jung is answered in the first question, but the other three of these are going to be interesting going into Spring Training.

I think Winn, the Rangers' No. 3 prospect per MLB Pipeline and arguably their best Minor League pitcher in 2021, will start the season with Triple-A Round Rock and get a midseason call-up. The organization has been pretty adamant about not rushing its top prospects. Winn wasn't promoted to the Express until Aug. 20.

I’d expect the Rangers would want him to get some Triple-A starts under his belt before making his debut in Arlington.

Ibáñez and Terry are both interesting as well. Of the two, I think Ibáñez is the most likely to start 2022 on the big league roster, with Terry holding down the 1B/DH position in Round Rock. Ibáñez’s biggest strength is his versatility -- he can slot into any of the infield positions and could likely play the outfield in a crunch. Rangers manager Chris Woodward has said that these last 10 games are vital for Ibáñez, and he could hopefully solidify his future with the club. He’s certainly made a case for himself this last month, slashing .306/.342/.454 through his last 30 games.

And while he’s gotten better defensively, Terry, the organization's No. 18 prospect, is limited to first base and designated hitter. He struggled at the big league level after his debut this season, so I think he has a chance to be on the active roster in 2022, but he will have to prove he can handle MLB pitching if he wants to stick around in Arlington.

Is there any scenario where they bring back Mike Foltynewicz next year?
-- @andrewcgolden on Twitter

I could almost positively say Foltynewicz won’t return to the Rangers as a starter next season, and if that’s what he wants, it won’t be in Texas. If he is OK with coming out of the bullpen, it’s a more realistic opportunity.

The Rangers' rotation will likely work out to be some combination of veterans -- maybe Jordan Lyles and a free-agent signing -- with a few young guns coming behind them. Think Glenn Otto, A.J. Alexy, Howard, etc.

Foltynewicz, who holds a 5.47 ERA over 26 games (24 starts) this season, has little place in that rotation. He’ll come out of the bullpen for the remainder of the 2021 season, and that will probably determine what the Rangers do this offseason. With a number of prospects coming up on Rule 5 Draft eligibility, the club will need to make some roster crunch decisions, and Foltynewicz could be a casualty.