The Rangers are going to promote prospect Josh Jung, per Levi Weaver of The Athletic. Brad Miller is going to go on the 10-day injured list with a hip issue, per Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. That will create a spot on the active roster for Jung, but he will also need a corresponding move to get him onto the 40-man roster.
Jung, 24, was selected by the Rangers with the eighth overall pick in the 2019 draft and has been considered one of the top prospects in the sport ever since. He played 44 games in the minors that year, mashing the whole way through. In 2020, he jumped onto Baseball America’s top 100 list, coming in at #93.
Of course, 2020 brought the pandemic and all levels of the minor leagues were canceled, putting a dent in the plans of prospects all across the sport. As things were ramping back up for 2021 and they were all hoping to get back on track, Jung hit another setback. In March, he underwent surgery for a stress fracture in his foot, which was expected to lengthen his absence from organized baseball for another six to eight weeks.
Despite those setbacks, once Jung was finally healthy, he made up for lost time in a big way, finishing 2021 on an incredible tear. He finally made his season debut in Double-A on June 15 and played 43 games at that level, hitting .308/.366/.544 for a wRC+ of 140. He was promoted to Triple-A on August 20 and somehow hit even better. In 35 games for the Round Rock Express, his slash line was .348/.436/.652, wRC+ of 166. That strong finish to his campaign launched him all the way up to #26 on Baseball America’s list going into this year.
It seemed possible that Jung could make his MLB debut early in 2022, maybe even cracking the Opening Day roster. However, he suffered a shoulder strain in February while lifting weights as part of his preseason training program. He had to undergo surgery, which was expected to keep him out for six months. He returned to action in August, seemingly not missing a beat. In 30 games this year, he’s hitting .267/.323/.542, hitting nine homers in that short time. Although the shoulder injury slowed him down, it only delayed the inevitable.
Jung is now considered the #42 prospect in the game by Baseball America, #12 by FanGraphs, #24 by ESPN, #39 by MLB Pipeline and #54 by Keith Law of The Athletic. Just a few days ago, the Rangers seemed committed to keeping Jung down while giving the playing time at the hot corner to Ezequiel Duran, though it seems the injury to Miller has altered the plans. Duran is having an intriguing debut season, hitting .240/.282/.373 for a wRC+ of 86. However, he could also be moved to other positions, having spent some time in his career at second base, shortstop and center field. Miller’s been used mostly as a designated hitter recently, with that spot now freed up somewhat for days when the Rangers want both Jung and Duran in the lineup.
If Jung can meet the lofty expectations placed upon him by his prospect status, he could be the final piece of a Rangers infield that could be set for years to come. Shortstop Corey Seager is in the first of a ten-year deal he signed in the offseason. Marcus Semien has second base locked after signing a seven-year deal this winter. Nathaniel Lowe is enjoying a tremendous breakout season over at first, which MLBTR’s Steve Adams wrote about just yesterday. Lowe is under team control for four seasons beyond the current campaign. There’s a lot of change in the wind in Texas, as they just recently fired their manager and president of baseball operations, but it’s possible that this infield could be a solid foundation for them to build upon in the coming years, helping them emerge from a lengthy rebuilding period.
If Jung can stick with the big league club from here on out, he is on pace to reach arbitration for the first time after 2025 and free agency after 2028. Future option assignments could delay those timelines, however. Jung also won’t reach 60 days of service time here in 2022 and is unlikely to get 130 at-bats. That means he will retain rookie/prospect status through the winter, which could have ramifications for the team. Under the new collective bargaining agreement, players with less than 60 days of service who appear among two preseason Top 100 lists at Baseball America, ESPN or MLB Pipeline can net their team a bonus amateur draft choice based on their early-career finishes in awards voting, so long as their club carries them on the MLB roster for a full service year. If Jung cracks the Opening Day roster next year and he wins a Rookie of the Year or places highly in MVP balloting during his first couple seasons, the club could pick up an extra draft choice down the line.
Image courtesy of USA Today Sports.