“A lot of people undermine my defense,” the Double-A Erie second baseman said recently. “A lot of people have their opinions. People read what other people say about my defense and they have that stigma about me. If you’ve never seen me play and you just read about what people say, then obviously you’re going to think about what they say.
“I think that’s the biggest thing coming here. People are like, ‘Oh, he’s not bad defensively.’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, I’m not.’ You read the reports and the scouting reports trying to critique you. My brother’s a darn good third baseman, and he got told that he wasn’t very good coming out of college. I mean, we’ve heard it all, we’ve seen it all. That’s what a scout’s supposed to do. He’s supposed to critique you, try to find weaknesses in your game. I try to prove them wrong, try to show them I can play a little bit of defense.”
That’s Jace’s brother Josh Jung, whose breakout rookie season with the Rangers earned him an All-Star selection. He’s currently on the injured list after breaking his left thumb.
The Jung family, Jace included, joined Josh in Seattle for All-Star festivities. And what Jace saw provided even more motivation for him.
“This is what I said when I got back: When you think about big leaguers, you’re thinking they’re all like 6-4, 6-5, these big humans,” Jace Jung said. “And when you get there in person, you’re like, ‘Oh, I’m the same size.’ I really took that and was like, ‘I would love be here, too, at one point.’”
Jung, the Tigers’ first-round pick in the 2022 Draft, plays second base with aggressiveness, having heard scouting reports that pegged him with an eventual move to third base. Then there’s the hitting: He holds his bat high above his shoulders in his stance, and carries a chip on his shoulder while he’s doing it.
“He's got incredible bat speed,” Erie manager Gabe Alvarez said. “I’d only seen videos and gotten reports from our coaches and coordinators. Everybody knows that he can hit. I think what people see is kind of an unorthodox stance, but I think it’s just unique to him. He makes it work.
“There’s a lot of great hitters that have their own stances, and those are the stances that kids and players end up trying to mimic. When I was a kid, everybody knew Will Clark’s stance. It’s going to be one of those types of situations. Not a lot of players are going to hit like that, but he’s going to make it work for him.”
Jung made it work from the moment he pulled into UPMC Park, hitting three home runs with seven RBIs in his first week of Double-A ball. After a bit of a lull, he heated up again in recent days, falling a triple shy of the cycle Thursday in the SeaWolves’ 12-10 win over Bowie.
Jung’s double Thursday came on a 1-1 pitch over the plate. He jumped on the first pitch he saw a few innings later and sent it deep to left-center for his seventh home run in 28 Double-A games and his 21st home run overall between Erie and High-A West Michigan. That aggressiveness isn’t by accident.
“Swinging at the pitches I can do damage on more often,” Jung said was his main point of improvement offensively. “Sometimes I would let them go by early in the count, get to two strikes and put myself in a hole. Trying to be more aggressive in that aspect, that’s what I’m trying to do now.”
For an Erie team that lost several prospects to midseason promotions or injuries, Jung has made a quick impression and provided a jolt.
“He’s gonna hit,” Alvarez said of Jung. “He’s gonna hit a lot. And I love the way he plays. He’s a gamer. He gets after it. He gives you everything he has, every game, which is just so refreshing to see. He’s the type of player that when fans see him play, they’re going to root for him, just because of how hard he plays.”