With 82 days until the 2022 MLB Amateur Draft, we will continue taking looks at some potential draft prospects for the Royals. I last wrote about Ivan Melendez, who is viewed as more of a second day of the draft sort of prospect than a first rounder. Today, we’ll take a look at a guy that is very likely to go top ten: Jace Jung.
Jung, the younger brother of 2019 8th overall pick Josh Jung, hails from San Antonio, Texas. He played his high school ball at MacArthur High School. Starring as a shortstop, he racked up accolades, including All-District second team honors his freshman and sophomore seasons, TSWA All-State third team as a junior, and TSWA All-State first team as a senior. Just like his older brother, Jung went undrafted out of high school and accepted a scholarship offer to play at Texas Tech.
Jung began his collegiate career in the spring of 2020, taking over for his recently drafted brother as the starting third baseman for the Red Raiders. Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic forced an abrupt end to the season after just 19 games. Nonetheless, Jung announced his presence with a beefy batting line of .264/.438/.604 with four home runs, four doubles, and a 20.3% strikeout rate while getting reps at each infield spot.
In 2021, Jung established himself as one of the nation’s premier hitters. Primarily playing second base, while also seeing reps at shortstop, Jung got off to an inauspicious start, going 1-8 with a walk and four strikeouts in his first two games. He took off after that. He walked thrice in Texas Tech’s next game, homered twice in the following game, and never looked back. Jung would appear in all 56 games for the Red Raiders and slash an incredible .337/.462/.697 with 21 homers, 10 doubles, and a tidy 17.0% strikeout rate. He tied for 3rd in the nation in homers and his 1.159 OPS was 3rd highest among Power-5 players. As a top-8 national seed in the NCAA tournament, Texas Tech took care of business in the Lubbock Regional with wins over Army, UNC, and UCLA before falling to Stanford in the Super Regionals. Jung hit .286/.318/.524 with six strikeouts in 22 postseason plate appearances. Jung was a consensus first-team All-American in 2021 and was also named 2021 Big XII Player of the Year.
Expectations were high for Jung entering the 2022 season, with D1Baseball ranking him third among college draft prospects. So far, he has not disappointed. slashing .371/.516/.698 in 213 plate appearances. While he has only hit 11 home runs, he’s smacked 17 doubles and has further cut his strikeout rate to 12.2%. He has also already walked almost as many times this year (47) as he did in 2021 (49).
JACE JUNG DELIVERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!— Texas Tech Baseball (@TTU_Baseball) April 10, 2022
WALK-OFF HOME RUN, LET'S GOOOOOOOOOOOOO@jace17jung | #WreckEm pic.twitter.com/vzzdXFVG7c
Regardless who you ask, Jung is one of the best prospects available in this year’s draft. D1Baseball ranked him 6th among college players in their midseason prospects list. Fangraphs ranks Jung as the 3rd best prospect on The Board. MLB.com ranks him 7th on their draft prospects list, ProspectsLive ranks him 6th, BaseballAmerica ranks him 7th, and Kiley McDaniel at ESPN ranks him 9th.
Jung has put up even better numbers than his brother Josh did in college, showing more power at the dish, though Josh was a more well-rounded player. Jace Jung is a bat-first prospect, as he has below average speed and likely won’t stick at second base in pro ball. His bat would certainly play at third, but it’s unlikely he’ll ever be above average defensively there. In case you hadn’t noticed from the numbers above, the dude can really hit. He has an excellent approach at the plate that has gotten even more refined through his collegiate career, and he has legit all-fields power. I had the chance to see Jung play in-person from behind home plate when the Red Raiders visited Lawrence to take on the Jayhawks early this month. While it should be noted that Kansas isn’t exactly a baseball powerhouse, Jung teed off against Jayhawks pitching. In the game I attended, he went 3-4 with a walk and a home run off the batters eye in center. He consistently made loud contact.
Jace Jung is a baaaaad man pic.twitter.com/jISnFEWpDf— Trevor Cobern (@TCobernRRS) April 2, 2022
Despite the numbers and the tools, Jung is not a slam-dunk prospect. As mentioned previously, Jung is a bat-first prospect, and there are questions about the bat. The mechanics of his set-up and swing are unorthodox; there isn’t really a physical comp there.
While we got a minute before game time, I'll show off some BP footage. Jace Jung's setup is pretty unorthodox, but he manages to explode through the baseball. Plenty of power in his bat. He'll be hitting second for Team Stripes today. pic.twitter.com/IR6ZvqaFuC— Tyler Jennings (@TylerJennings24) July 4, 2021
A look at the HR off the CF batters eye from Jace Jung of @TTU_Baseball tonight. @Texas_PG @PGCollegeBall— Perfect Game Midwest Baseball (@PGMidwestBB) April 2, 2022
Some scouts question whether his hitting ability will translate to wood bats and higher level pitching. After all, at the Cape Cod League last summer, he hit just .219/.265/.406 in 32 plate appearances, with 11 strikeouts to just two walks. When picking in the top 10 of the draft, if there isn’t speed or other defensive tools to fall back on, you better be damn confident about the bat.
It’s somewhat unlikely that Jung is even on the board by the time the Royals make their first pick at #9. They have a history of going underslot around that position anyway, such as last year with Frank Mozzicato and in 2013 with Hunter Dozier. That said, if he’s available, it might be the worth the gamble to add a bat like Jung’s to the system.
What do you think of Jace Jung at #9?
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