"I Feel Like That was Huge for My Career" Rangers' Josh Jung Reflects on Time in Arlington
The Texas Rangers have shifted their identity toward the youth of the organization. While top prospects like Sam Huff, Leody Taveras, and Anderson Tejeda have been called up this season, Josh Jung has stayed put at the Alternate Training Site across the street at Globe Life Park.
Jung is listed as the Rangers' top prospect on MLB Pipeline and Baseball America. Fans have wanted to get a glimpse of the eighth overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft, but the former Red Raider will not see the big leagues in 2020.
"For me, it was just one of those things that if it happens, it happens," Jung told the media via Zoom on Monday. "If it doesn’t, it’s no big deal. This is my first full season of baseball [and] didn’t even get to play a full season or a season in general. (If) you look at it from that perspective, that it probably wasn’t going to happen, so I came in with a mindset of just trying to learn as much as possible, try to grow as a player as much as possible, and just take advantage of the opportunity I was given."
The absence of a minor league season hurt the development of the vast majority of prospects all throughout baseball. Even the few prospects that have had the opportunity to play in the big leagues for the first time are showing why the minor leagues are so important for their development.
The clubs in Major League Baseball tried to make the most of a tough situation, adding several top prospects to their respective 60-man pools so they could get some semblance of organized baseball activity, if not Major League action.
Josh Jung was not only grateful for the work at the Alternate Training Site over the past three months, but he praised the opportunity to work with the big league staff and other players that have seen big league action.
"I feel like being in Arlington, training with the big league staff, having our coordinator on us every day. I feel like it was more valuable in my career than going out playing games. I know that’s crazy to say, but in these times, how often do you get to just train for three months at your big league stadium and getting to understand all that while you’re in the minor leagues, like that never happens. For me, it was being able to go to the field everyday, learn from those guys, and figure out myself as a player. We still played intrasquad games, we still faced live pitching, played defense. It wasn’t necessarily competitive games that you would play during the season, but that experience, getting out there on the field every day, learning what works for me in the box and on defense and being able to slow things down, and say 'hey today is a day I need extra work' and having all day to get that extra work and not being like, 'okay, the game is at seven and I got thirty minutes to get my work in and I hope that works.' Having that field to ourselves when the big league team is on the road to say, 'hey I want to hit extra day on the field to see how the balls fly.' I feel like that was huge for my career."
One thing that's consistently been said throughout baseball about the Alternate Training Sites is nothing can replace genuine game action. So, it's definitely a surprise to hear a player say that the work at the Alternate Training Site could be more valuable than playing at any level of the minor leagues.
In turn, the natural question is why was it so much more valuable than playing in Down East, Frisco, or Nashville? What did the Alternate Training Site provide that the minor leagues couldn't?
“I’d say the biggest thing is experience, because that's what people look at is, ‘are you a veteran or not?’ It's all based on experience and years in the league. For one, I'd say there's nothing like the big leagues, for sure. That's where you want to go. That's everybody's goal. And not necessarily me being in the big leagues, but being around that atmosphere for these last three months is just something that you don't ever get, especially in the minor leagues. You might get a glimpse of it in spring training, then it goes away. I was consistently around those guys for these three months and throughout the season to see how things get handled. To see how they bounce back. To see how the energy is on certain days, learning how to take care of your body because everybody does it differently. I think that those things will mount up for me especially. Being able to take that experience, take their advice, listen to what they had to say listen, to what works for them, because they're in the place that I want to get to. In Single-A baseball, you just got the guys that are around you. I was older than most of them. I'm coming with my college experience and they're coming with pro ball experience. And we're trying to mesh that. Now you got guys in the big leagues that—they could have been in the minor leagues forever. They could have gone to college. They have all this experience mounted up and being able to share that with me, letting me see kind of into their clues that made them successful. I think it's just going to be huge for my career.”
Jung's work at the Alternate site is now complete. The Rangers are giving him a small break before the Arizona Instructional League begins on September 28, where Jung will have the chance to apply what he has learned to game action.
“For me, it's going to be to play however many games a week—five, six games a week—getting those game reps, and just trying to continue to be as consistent as possible in those games," Jung said. "And everything that I have learned over the past three months, to take that now apply it in game and see how it translates against other people than pitchers I've seen five or six times.”