Josh Jung is a third baseman, loves the position, loves Brooks Robinson and Nolan Arenado.
After the Texas Rangers’ first-round pick Monday night in the MLB First-Year Player Draft, he probably ought to love Adrian Beltre, too.
“He wasn’t bad, was he?” Jung said.
No, he wasn’t, and Jung has been the Texas Tech equivalent the past three seasons, with some shortstop thrown in this season.
The Rangers used the eighth overall pick on Jung, from San Antonio, and expect to have no issues signing him once the Red Raiders’ season is over. They play this weekend in the Super Regionals and are favorites to advance to the College World Series.
The Rangers are thin at third base in the minors, but amateur scouting director Kip Fagg said that need wasn’t a consideration. He was the best player on their draft board.
“Best guy we evaluated at that time. That didn’t come in to play at all,” Fagg said. “For me, I have always been on Josh, seen him for a few years now, always been an exciting player for me and the guys in our group.”
Jung, who is currently playing shortstop, was the Co-Player of the Year in the Big 12 Conference after batting .332 with 21 doubles, 11 home runs, 53 RBIs, 49 walks and only 37 strikeouts this season. His OPS was 1.080.
The Rangers had two more picks on the first day of the draft. They used the No. 41 pick on the other Big 12 Co-Player of the Year, Baylor third baseman Davis Wendzel, and the 50th pick on UCLA right-hander Ryan Garcia.
While addressing a need wasn’t the Rangers’ focus, Jung will become their most advanced prospect at the position.
Baseball America said scouts believe Jung will be an above-average or plus hitter in the majors but might never hit for much power. A right-handed hitter, Jung admitted that he doesn’t think about driving the ball out of the ballpark.
His goal is to find a gap, something that can translate into more power once in the big leagues. The Rangers think he can add pop to his swing.
“I try to get in there and stay in the gaps and hit line drive shots in the gap,” Jung said. “If it goes out, it goes out. I’m not one of those guys who goes up there and tries to swing as hard as I can to plant one. I have heard about trying to pull the ball more, which I think as I get more at-bats I will get better at it. What’s made me successful is shoot the ball in the gaps and right-center and straightaway.”
The Rangers also see a solid third baseman with a good arm and good feet, contrary to some scouting reports. Jung said that he loves the position and, as somewhat of an historian of the game, became enamored with Robinson, who won 16 Gold Gloves and was elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1983.
Jung said he can handle the position.
“Third base is all reactionary,” he said. “I feel I have decent reaction. It’s fun. It’s challenging. I’ve played it at the Rangers’ park before, made a few diving plays on that field. I’m really comfortable at third base.”