Former Texas Tech baseball star and current Texas Rangers’ third basemen, Josh Jung, has suffered a broken thumb that could put an end to what was a stellar rookie season for the all-star starter. What’s more, this freak injury could have long-lasting ramifications for the Rangers on multiple fronts.
Of course, missing Jung is a huge blow to Texas’ hopes of winning the American League West, a division that the Rangers lead by only 2.5 games over the Houston Astros entering play on Monday. Jung, who was expected to see a specialist on Monday to determine the severity of the break and how to proceed with his recovery, has posted a .275 batting average while belting 22 homers and 67 RBI to position him as one of the frontrunners for the American League Rookie of the Year Award.
Had Young won that prestigious award, he would have been the first Red Raider alum to win a major award in MLB. But it also would have paid dividends for his franchise.
Thanks to new MLB rules, a player who finishes in the top three of the R.O.Y voting will earn for his franchise an extra pick in the next year’s draft, a pick that could be valuable given that it will fall just after the first round and prior to the second round. With Jung’s season going the way it had been prior to the injury, it was almost a lock that he would have brought one of those extra picks to Texas but if he misses the remainder of the year, it is likely that he will fall outside the parameters to do so.
It was an unusual play that caused the injury. In the 6th inning of Texas’ 6-0 win over the Miami Marlins on Sunday in Texas, Jung took a line drive that left the bat of Jorge Soler at nearly 110 m.p.h. off of the thumb of his glove (left) hand. Though he didn’t catch the ball, he did gather it to start a crucial double-play that squashed a Marlins’ rally that saw the at-bat begin with two men on base and no outs.
However, immediately after the play, Jung could be seen looking down at his glove and acting as if something was wrong. He would eventually be replaced by backup infielder, Josh Smith and taken for x-rays which revealed the break.
At the time of this post, there had been no update on Jung’s status other than to say he is out “indefinitely”. Of course, Rangers’ fans are now concerned about whether or not the rookie will be ready for a possible playoff run.
In a best-case scenario, Jung would not need surgery and could return in 4-6 weeks. That would mean he could resume baseball activity in mid-September giving him only a handful of games to get back in the groove of things before October and the playoffs arrive. It is also possible that his season could be over.
This development means that Jung will go another year without playing a full professional season. Of course, after he was drafted in 2019, what should have been his first full professional season was wiped out by the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic when no minor-league games were played.
Then, the 2021 minor-league season was abbreviated by a late start due to reverberations from the pandemic. Unfortunately, 2022 saw Jung suffer a preseason shoulder injury that cost him a shot at breaking into the majors last spring. That limited him to only 31 minor league games before he was called up to join the Rangers for the final 26 games of the year.
This season, Jung has appeared in 109 games for Texas, the most games he’s ever played, and had he not been injured, he likely would have played more games this season than he had played in all of his years of minor-league ball combined (153). That led many to wonder if the rookie sensation would be able to grind through the rigors of a 162-game big-league season, something that all rookies must adjust to and something that was in question given the lack of a full professional season under his belt at any level.
Now, the hope is that he can return quickly enough to be a factor for the Rangers in what Texas fans hope will be a playoff run. But there is also the possibility that the best season any Red Raider has ever had in the Majors has come to a disappointingly abrupt end.