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The Texas Rangers entered Wednesday with a 2 1/2 game lead in the American League West, making this the deepest into a season they've occupied at least a share of the catbird seat since 2016. (The Rangers won 95 games and the division that season.) One of the reasons the Rangers find themselves off to a good start is the hot play of third baseman Josh Jung, named on Wednesday the AL Rookie of the Month for April. 

Jung, 25, celebrated the occasion on Wednesday afternoon by launching a pair of home runs and driving in three against the Arizona Diamondbacks (GameTracker). As of press time, his seasonal line has him batting .271/.322/.542 with eight home runs, 24 runs batted in, and even a stolen base. His contributions have been worth an estimated 0.6 Wins Above Replacement, per Baseball Reference's calculations.

It's fair to write that Jung, the No. 8 pick in the 2019 draft, took the scenic route here. Though he was considered a polished collegiate on draft night, his development was stalled by the global pandemic (which wiped out the 2020 minor-league season) and injuries. He played in fewer than 60 games last season, with 26 coming at the big-league level. The results were not particularly encouraging, even if they were understandable given the circumstances, as he posted a .654 OPS and struck out 35 more times than he walked in 102 trips to the plate.

Predictably, Jung has shown growth in some respects. He's hitting the ball harder on average and in frequency, and that hard contact is often being accompanied by launch angles that fall within the optimized window. Take a look at this handy table:

SeasonAverage EV95+ mph%Barrel%


85.5 mph




89.5 mph



Jung ranks in the 52nd percentile among qualified batters in EV, but he's been productive thanks to his 93rd percentile rank in barrel rate. Will that sustain? That's an important question as it pertains to Jung's long-term Rookie of the Year Award candidacy, especially in light of his ongoing deficiencies in approach and contact rate.

To date, he's struck out in 33% of his plate appearances while walking in just over 6%. Last year, he was at 38.2% and 3.9%, respectively, in an almost even amount of playing time. Those are improvements, then, but more would be welcomed. More worrisome is that Jung this season is actually whiffing on a higher rate of his swings (33.6%) than he did last year. In other words, there's a lot riding on Jung doing maximum damage whenever he makes contact. 

Maybe Jung will continue to make it work -- he sure has to date -- but his April can serve as a reminder of two truths: he has more to offer than he showed last season, and that he may have more work to do to solidify himself as a core piece on a playoff team.