Jace Jung following in brother’s footsteps

Detroit Tigers

The Tigers selected Jace Jung with the No. 12 overall pick in the 2022 Draft. Here’s a deeper look at Jung that was first published on MLB.com in the weeks leading up to the Draft.

Jace Jung is happy to follow in his brother’s footsteps. After all, look at what Josh Jung has done, and where he’s going.

Josh, 24, starred at Texas Tech from 2017-19. The Rangers drafted him No. 8 overall in 2019, and the third baseman is now ranked the No. 30 prospect in baseball by MLB Pipeline.

Jace, three years younger, is on that same path. He came to Texas Tech the year after his brother left and became a star in his own right. Now the 21-year-old second baseman is ranked the No. 9 Draft prospect for 2022.

“I don’t mind being compared to him. I’m not like that,” Jace said. “It’s been so much fun following in his footsteps, learning so much from him.”

Both Jungs were All-Americans in Lubbock. Josh hit .348 with 33 home runs over his career and led the Red Raiders to two College World Series appearances. Jace has hit .328 with 39 home runs and 126 walks to only 102 strikeouts, leading the Red Raiders to two NCAA tournaments.

“It’s pretty cool, because the accomplishments I had in my career in college, he did the same thing — and went above and beyond,” Josh said. “He’s always trying to keep up with big bro. But now, watching him go out there and flourish and do his own thing, it’s been really special. Just to watch him make his own name for himself.”

For the two brothers, the road to the Major Leagues means traveling together. Jace trains with Josh all offseason. He lives in Josh’s house in Lubbock, and Josh brings back drills and techniques he’s learned in the Rangers organization to help Jace.

“We love baseball. We can’t get enough baseball,” Jace said. “It’s hard for us to get away from the game. We take a week off in the fall, and we try so hard to make it that whole week without picking up a bat or a ball. Just because we love the game so much.”

“We do everything together,” Josh said. “We model our games after each other. We give each other feedback on what we see. Coming back with my experience and watching him implement it in his game, it’s super cool.”

For all the parallels in their baseball lives, Jace is his own player. Take his energy on the field for example; that’s all Jace.

“He plays with so much more swagger than me,” Josh said. “But he backs it up. He backs up whatever he does out there.”

“I love playing with energy,” Jace said. “I guess that’s where we’re a little different. I’ll play with a chip on my shoulder. I’m a vocal leader on the field. I like to get after it and go hard all the time.”

Then there’s the swing. Jace’s left-handed swing is unique. He grips the bat with the index finger of his bottom hand extended along his top hand. Instead of starting his swing with the bat in a traditional vertical slot, he angles it back, flat, a little like Matt Olson.

But the swing doesn’t come from Olson, or any hitter. Jung learned it from Texas Tech coach Ray Hayward, who pitched in the Majors for the Padres and Rangers. He’s used it since summer ball in 2020 and has finetuned it with help from Josh and their dad, Jeff.

“I fell in love with it,” Jace said. “It’s funny, because when I load, the bat goes to the same spot as a ‘normal’ hitter. But laying it back, I guess, is kind of my thing.”

Jung does study certain players. He emulates Corey Seager. He likes to watch Mike Trout, for his greatness, and Shohei Ohtani, for his uniqueness.

But his swing is pure Jace Jung. It’s designed to keep his bat on plane through the zone longer and has produced great power for the natural slugger of the Jung family.

“He’s got all the raw talent and all the raw power — I had to work for mine,” Josh said. “But I also see a ton of similarities … We both had our teams at Texas Tech and ran with them.”

Jace has made plenty of his own big moments in Lubbock. Three favorites: his 21st home run of 2021, which pushed the Red Raiders past North Carolina in the NCAA Regionals; his walk-off homer to sweep Kansas State this April; his homer to cap a 15-pitch at-bat against Kansas on April 2.

“Never back down from a fight,” Jace said. “At the plate, it’s a dogfight when you get in there against that pitcher.”

The “dogfight” mentality does come from Josh. Jace says it’s one of the most important things his older brother has taught him about hitting.

Jace and Josh have competed at everything their whole lives. Wiffle ball in the street as kids (“We got kicked out of the backyard for destroying the grass,” Josh said). Basketball in middle school. The batting cages. Card games. Fortnite.

But now they share the same Major League dream. They talk about that sometimes, what it would be like to play on the same field in the big leagues, as teammates or opponents.

“He mentioned it to me when I first got here: ‘Can you imagine us playing in the same stadium?'” Jace said. “Whatever team it is. That would be a dream come true. For our parents. For our whole family. Just to see us do that.”

“Coming into the year, I was like, ‘Man, I really want the Rangers to draft my brother,'” Josh said. “That’d be freaking awesome. But however it happens, just being able to follow his career and see where it goes — I can’t wait for it. One day, that’s the goal: to have our parents there in the stands, and my brother and I share the same field … That’s the pinnacle of baseball, right? I don’t even know if you can put into words what it would mean.”

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