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Josh Jung Taking 'Boring' Approach to Fielding
By Matthew Postins,
Texas Rangers third baseman Josh Jung has a plan going into the 2023 MLB season to eliminate the perception that he's not a good fielder.
Josh Jung isn’t necessarily calling it a motto or a mantra. But when it comes to his fielding, he knows what it must become — boring.
“If you came make fielding boring, like every time they hit one to you they say, ‘Yeah, that’s an out.’ That’s what we’re going for,” Jung said.
As a Texas Rangers prospect, the 25-year-old Texas Tech product has always been known for his bat. That’s what propelled him to Big 12 Co-Player of the Year in 2019 and All-America honors as a shortstop.
Yes, a shortstop. Even though he played third base his first two seasons at Texas Tech, he moved to shortstop his junior season, after which he turned pro.
That was scouts’ final impression of his fielding ability, as he and the Red Raiders went all the way to the College World Series. The Rangers made him their first-round pick.
“There were probably some balls that got through the hole at Texas Tech that shouldn’t have, but we made it to Omaha so that was the big thing,” Jung said with a smile.
That’s how he knows that not every MLB scout thought that much of his fielding going into pro ball. MLB.com, which rates Jung as the Rangers’ No. 1 overall prospect , has a fielding and arm grade of 55. That puts him in between average and above-average.
Jung is pushing for above-average, or in his translation, boring.
Every day in Spring Training, he has a plan, with the help of first-base coach and field coordinator Corey Ragsdale and third-base coach Tony Beasley.
The focus is on footwork. Unlike the middle infield, Jung doesn’t need as much range to either side as Corey Seager or Marcus Semien. Jung needs the ability to cover ground to his left between him and Seager at shortstop. But he also needs the quick reflexes to dive to his right for sharp grounders and line drives down the line.
Every day he, Ragsdale and Beasley do drills to help him get in the proper position for every play.
“I’m just trying to enhance my feet,” Jung said. “That’s the biggest thing because I can get my feet in the right position. That’s what I’m seeing. We’ve emphasized my feet over the past two weeks, I’m just seeing the ball better off the bat and I’m giving myself a better position.”
Rangers manager Bruce Bochy already sees the difference, especially on those quick liners and grounders that require Jung to quickly dive to his left or right. His play this spring has been different than what Jung put on tape late last season when the Rangers called him up.
Of course, the bat is in good shape. Jung is batting .310 this spring.
But the glove is catching up, even if he has more faith in it than outsiders.
“I feel like I’ve always played decent defense, it’s just kind of underrated because I’m really slow,” Jung said. “So people said I really didn’t play defense but I’ve been continuing to work on it all the time every day.”