HomeTrending MLB NewsTop of the Order: Josh Jung’s Injury Weakens the Rangers’ Strength

Top of the Order: Josh Jung’s Injury Weakens the Rangers’ Strength

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Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back to Top of the Order, where every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I’ll be starting your baseball day with some news, notes, and thoughts about the game we love.

Injuries are unfortunately nothing new in Josh Jung’s short major league career. The Rangers third baseman emerged during the first half of last season as one of baseball’s top young talents until a fractured thumb in early August kept him out of action for six weeks and limited him to 122 games. His overall numbers — 110 wRC+ and 2.5 WAR — were strong enough for him to finish fourth in the AL Rookie of the Year balloting despite a rough final stretch upon his return; he had a 38 wRC+ in his 54 plate appearances to close out the regular season. He rebounded just in time for the postseason, hitting three home runs and posting a 128 wRC+ in 70 plate appearances as he helped lead Texas to the franchise’s first World Series championship.

Despite missing almost all of spring training with a calf strain, Jung looked poised to take another step forward in 2024, coming out of the gates hot with a .412/.474/.941 batting line in his first 19 plate appearances. But regrettably, that potential breakout came to a crashing halt on Monday when Jung was hit by a pitch at which he swung and broke his wrist. The injury requires surgery that could keep him out of action for six to 10 weeks.

The Rangers, who over the last two offseasons decided not to significantly augment their offense through trades and free agency, have interesting internal options to fill in for Jung. Infielder Justin Foscue was called up from Triple-A earlier this week when Jung was placed on the injured list. Foscue, who can also play first and second, is not a premier prospect, but he grades out as a 70 hitter and has walked more than he’s struck out at Triple-A, making for a high-floor hitter who can slide in nicely at the bottom of the order. For now at least, it looks like he and Ezequiel Duran will be on the short side of platoons in the corner infield with first baseman Jared Walsh, who is filling in for the injured Nathaniel Lowe, and Josh Smith at third.

Jung’s injury is a big blow for a Texas team that was relying on its potent lineup to carry the load while four of its starting pitchers — Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer, Tyler Mahle, and Michael Lorenzen — work their way back from injuries of their own. That was never going to be easy in the competitive American League West, but the Rangers had the offensive talent to make it work. They were banking on Jung to build upon his solid rookie campaign, top prospect Wyatt Langford to make an immediate impact, and Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, and Adolis García to play up to their All-Star pedigrees. Instead, with Lowe and now Jung hurt, the Rangers are not at full strength on either side of the ball. Their margin for error in the playoff race, which was already expected to be thin, just got even smaller.

The Mets have unmatched vibes thus far this season, and I don’t mean that in a good way. Fortunately for them, they scratched out a win in game two of their doubleheader against the Tigers on Thursday at Citi Field despite being no-hit into the eighth inning. But they’re still a 1-5 team that has been rained out three times already this year.

That said, I’m not here to talk about the Mets coming out of the gate colder than any team besides the Marlins; I’m here to talk about Julio Teheran. The veteran right-hander debuted in 2011, and since then he’s pitched in every major league season except for 2022. While he’ll probably always be best known for his nine seasons in Atlanta, he’s bounced around quite a bit after leaving the Braves. He pitched 10 atrocious games for the Angels in 2020, made one start for the Tigers in 2021 before going down with injury, and delivered 71.2 perfectly decent innings (0.3 WAR) with the Brewers last year.

With that underwhelming of a recent track record combined with his age (33) and lack of stuff (his sinker averaged under 90 mph last year), it was surprising to see the Mets sign him to a $2.5 million contract for the remainder of the season, even though he couldn’t make the Orioles out of spring training. With the Mets in the highest tax bracket, the $2.5 million contract will effectively cost them $5.25 million, assuming he’s a Met for the entire season.

But the Mets have the financial muscle to flex, and they’ll continue to make moves like this ad infinitum as long as Steve Cohen will sign the checks. Teheran is an entirely unsexy pitcher, but he gives the Mets something that teams need more and more desperately in each successive season: relatively high-floor innings. He’s probably not better than prospects like Christian Scott and José Buttó — and, frankly, I probably would have just gone with one of those two instead — but depth isn’t a bad thing, even if one has to overpay for it. (Teheran will cost the Mets more, including taxes, than the Rangers will pay Michael Lorenzen.) As the Mets look to rebound from a rough start without ace Kodai Senga, they’re taking the quantity approach to pitching, and pitchers like Teheran go a long way in solving the season-long innings puzzle.

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