Friday on the Farm: Josh Jung isn’t the only third baseman in Texas Rangers’ system. Others just aren’t third basemen yet.
(Texas Rangers/Kelly Gavin)
Everyone who follows the Texas Rangers and Texas Tech baseball knows who the top third baseman is in the Rangers’ system.
It’s Josh Jung, the 2019 first-round pick (eighth overall) and the team’s No. 2 prospect. The only disappointing thing about his 2021 season is that it wasn’t a full season because of a stress fracture in his left foot that needed surgery in March and kept him out until June.
He still managed to hit .326 with 19 homers in 304 at-bats. He hit .348 in 135 at-bats at Triple A Round Rock after his bump from Double A Frisco.
Jung is thought to be so good and such a sure thing that few have bothered to look past him on the minor-league depth chart. But even Babe Ruth and Willie Mays had backups.
Jung will, too. Or maybe it’s a super utility player who gets multiple games a week at third while Jung gets a day off or a game at designated hitter.
Isiah Kiner-Falefa appears to be the internal favorite on the big-league roster to do that, though he could be the Opening Day third baseman while Jung starts 2022 in the minors. Andy Ibanez is another Rangers players who can juggle multiple positions.
The answer to who is No. 2 at third in the minors is much different than it was at the start of the offseason. It’s much different than it was on Thanksgiving Day.
The free-agent additions of shortstop Corey Seager and second baseman Marcus Semien, officially Dec. 1, have thrown roadblocks in front of several middle infielders who are believed to be getting close to their MLB debuts.
Those players will be asked to play different positions, while staying true to their current ones. If they are to reach the majors with the Rangers, they will have to do so as versatile players rather than just playing in one spot.
“When you do what we did, you naturally have some stability in certain positions and if you’re a prospect then you want to be proactive about getting to the big leagues,” assistant general manager Ross Fenstermaker said. “You ask, ‘What other positions might I be able to play because I want to play in the big leagues?’ We’re having those discussions with our players as well.”
There is also a corner infielder in the group of potential backups at third base.
They know who they are. For those who don’t, here’s who they are.
(Don’t be surprised if some of these players end up getting traded.)
But the Rangers see more value in him defensively at third base, where he played some in college at Mississippi State, and are likely to try him there initially. Left field would be another possibility, but he’s had some foot issues that might make the Rangers think twice.
The Rangers are certain that Foscue is a quality big-league player because of his bat. Some have projected him to be a middle-of-the-order bat with 30 home runs a season with a .300 average.
He doesn’t necessarily fit the profile of a third baseman, but neither does Kiner-Falefa. Smith has more power than Kiner-Falefa and shouldn’t have much trouble defensively at third or second.
Smith would be eligible for the Rule 5 draft after next season if not added to the 40-man roster either during the season or before the November deadline to set the reserve list. His ability at the plate, speed and forthcoming versatility could make him an attractive piece during the season.
His best position is second base, but he has played more at shortstop and third base than Foscue. Duran, in fact, played third base during the Arizona Fall League while his teammate Foscue manned second.
Duran has more power than Smith but not as much as Foscue. Duran has never played above High A. All three can hit.
He can also play shortstop, and every team carries an extra infielder who can play shortstop. But his two best positions are third base and second base.
Manager Chris Woodward was surprised in spring training by how athletic Wendzel is. He altered his swing to increase his launch angle, which brought on comparisons to the Dodgers’ Justin Turner. The beard helped.
It wasn’t Apostel’s best season. He’s generally a slow starter, but this season he struggled at the plate throughout. He hit 10 home runs in 238 at-bats, but three of those came against overmatched pitchers while on a rehab assignment in the Arizona Complex League.
One thing to keep in mind about Apostel, like several others, is that he made his MLB debut in 2020 despite never playing above A ball. Ideally he will play 2022 exclusively in the minors, though his spot on the 40-man roster might make him a necessity on the big-league team.
Jeff Wilson, firstname.lastname@example.org