2024 Spring Training preview: Texas Rangers third base

Just like the other infield positions for the Texas Rangers, third base is locked down by a solid player. Let's take a look back at 2023 and do a little predicting on what 2024 might hold at the hot corner.
Oct 8, 2023; Baltimore, Maryland, USA; Texas Rangers third baseman Josh Jung (6) throws to second
Oct 8, 2023; Baltimore, Maryland, USA; Texas Rangers third baseman Josh Jung (6) throws to second / Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
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A recap of the 2023 season for the third basemen

Jung played in most of the games for the Rangers at third base in 2023 and would have played in even more if he hadn't broken his thumb on August 6th. A line drive caught his left thumb just wrong and broke it. He would be out of the lineup until September 18th. That stretch of games that Jung missed, included some of the worst baseball that the Rangers played all season. The team withstood injuries to Corey Seager and Jacob deGrom better than they did loosing Jung. Perhaps it was just the last straw in a long list of injuries that the team had to face in 2023. It did highlight what a pivotal role that the young third baseman plays within the Rangers lineup.

Grade for Josh Jung 2023 season: B

Offensively, Jung slashed .266/.315/.467, scored 75 runs, drove in 70 runs, hit 25 doubles, 23 home runs, and had a 109 OPS+ in 122 games played. Those are all solid numbers for anyone, much less a rookie. Because of his hot start to the 2023 season, he was selected to the All-Star game and got the start at third base for the American League. He also finished fourth in the AL Rookie of the Year race and would have easily finished in the top two if he hadn't been hurt and missed so much time late in the season.

Jung's defense was a bit surprising. There was no doubt that he was going to be a good fielder, but he exceeded just about everyone's expectations. There were no plays that he couldn't, and didn't, make in the field and his arm was spot on all season. Sometimes third basemen can get a little wild on their throws, but not Jung. He threw bullet after bullet to Nathaniel Lowe last year and never weakened. The grade of B might could have been a bit higher, but even though Jung had a great season, there is plenty of upside for him to mature from a really good player, into a phenomenal one.

Backup third basemen grade: C

The main two guys that got playing time at third base when Jung was either resting, or out with injury, was Josh Smith and Ezequiel Duran. Both of these guys are good young players but overall, the Rangers played terrible baseball when Jung was out. Their worst stretch as a team came when he was out with his injury. Hopefully in the future the backups will play better, but more than anything, Jung's absence at the end of the season highlighted how crucial he is to make the Rangers team run well.

Next: What to expect in 2024 from Jung and company