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Josh Jung: Champ or Chump for Fantasy Baseball?

fantasy baseball prospects MLB prospects rookies call-ups

We've reached the middle of September, which means that many fantasy managers are either completely out of it or cruising to a title. If you're among the few in a battle that will last until the season's final days, the particulars of your league standing page will dictate what you have to do. Therefore, the generic fantasy advice that this column specializes in is no longer applicable.

Similarly, it's fair to say that the remainder of the MLB season is a small sample size. A sabermetric approach works best in larger samples, so all of the numbers and statistics we usually look at may not mean much over the final stretch. We've all been in a situation where we benched a speed guy who hit a HR that would've won us the league on the final day of the season.

Therefore, we'll be shifting focus to 2023. The players we cover will be potential waiver pickups for this season and who might benefit from them will still be discussed, but the next two weeks of results will not determine the success or failure of the prediction. Without further ado, let's discuss the latest top prospect to be summoned to MLB: third baseman Josh Jung of the Texas Rangers.

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Somewhat Contradictory Scouting Reports on Josh Jung

There is scouting consensus that Jung is a top prospect, as he was selected eighth overall in the 2019 amateur draft and came into the season ranked as the ninth overall prospect on FanGraphs and 39th by MLB.com. However, the shape of his expected production varies based on who you're talking to.

FanGraphs sees Jung's pop as his carrying tool, giving him 50/60 game power and 60/60 raw power with just a 45/55 hit tool. As a reminder, the first number is the tool's present grade (more applicable for immediate fantasy impact) while the second is future value (best used in dynasty and keeper formats).

MLB.com flips that, giving Jung 60-grade hit but only 55-grade power. His scouting report says that Jung could hit ".300 with 25 homers" in his prime while the FanGraphs grades suggest something more like .280 with 30 long balls. Both stat lines would be interesting in fantasy, but not knowing which one to expect makes it difficult to build a roster around him.


Somewhat Contradictory MiLB Seasons for Josh Jung

Ideally, Jung's performance on the farm would clear up the scouting confusion on him. Sadly, his MiLB performance only makes the situation worse. First, we don't have a lot of minor league data on him. He missed the entire 2020 season since the MiLB season was canceled, lost a bunch of time in 2021 due to a stress fracture in his foot and COVID protocols, and didn't get started until the end of July this year due to a torn labrum in his left shoulder.

In 2021, Jung looked like the more optimistic side of each scouting report. He began the season at Double-A (Frisco) and hit .308/.366/.544 with 10 homers in 186 PAs. His 28.6 LD% and .356 BABIP probably wouldn't translate to the highest level, but he demonstrated a solid plate approach with a 7 BB% and 22.6 K% that likely would. His 36.5 FB% could be a little higher for a slugger, but a minuscule 4.3 IFFB% was good for his BABIP. His 12.7 SwStr% was high given the rest of his numbers, but he still warranted a promotion.

Jung got that promotion to Triple-A (Round Rock) and performed even better, hitting .348/.436/.652 with nine long balls in 156 PAs. His peripherals were very similar, with unsustainable .413 BABIP and 26.3 LD% marks and great 11.5 BB% and 21.8 K% numbers. He upped his FB% to 40.4 without much of an increase to his 5 IFFB% and posted a 12.6 SwStr%. Had Jung debuted on Opening Day, this column and other fantasy analysts would've been screaming "sleeper alert!"

Instead, Jung got a delayed start to the season and returned to Round Rock where he hit a disappointing .273/.321/.525 with six homers in 106 PAs. His BABIP fell to .333, and it was still propped up by a 23.9 LD%. His FB% fell back to 35.8 and his IFFB% more than doubled to 12.5. Worst of all, his SwStr% jumped to 14.8 and his plate discipline metrics (3.8 BB%, 28.3 K%) were ugly. Other than potentially lingering injury issues, this author cannot figure out what happened.

It's worth pointing out that Jung enjoyed favorable hitting environments on the farm. Frisco had a 103 HR factor from 2017-2019, more than making up for its 98 hits factor. Round Rock looks like a pitcher's park with a 93 HR factor and 92 hits factor, but then you remember it's part of the Triple-A West league and every road game he played was in an extreme hitter's park.


Josh Jung at the MLB Level

Jung is hitting a solid .250 with three homers and a .550 slugging percentage in his first 40 PAs in the Show, but his peripherals from Triple-A have persisted. He needed a .368 BABIP to post a .250 average thanks to a 45 K% completely supported by his 19 SwStr% and 42.7% chase rate. He's also hitting sixth as a general rule, a lineup spot that offers little guaranteed fantasy value. Jung is considered athletic enough to stick at 3B, but he doesn't have the legs required to steal bags.

If you need to roll the dice on a power guy down the stretch, Jung appears capable of running into a few HR and is rostered in only 20% of leagues. However, his approach is broken. His plate discipline is a disaster right now, he doesn't hit enough fly balls to be a huge power threat, and the strikeouts will mute the impact of an elevated BABIP. Most tellingly, the Rangers gave him reps at 2B, SS, and the outfield in the instructional league to "enhance his versatility."

Teams do that for future bench pieces all of the time, but this author has never heard of a top prospect being told to enhance his versatility. Jung's final stats might make him intriguing in next year's fantasy drafts, but it says here that he'll be a Chump in 2023. There are simply too many question marks to count on him in any capacity.

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