DETROIT – The Tigers wasted little time getting their newest hitting prospect into the system. Detroit has agreed to terms with Texas Tech infielder Jace Jung, the team’s first-round pick from last week’s Draft, according to MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis.
Jung will receive a $4,590,300 bonus, the full slot value of the 12th overall selection, to turn pro and join a Tigers farm system that’s looking for advanced bats. The Tigers have not confirmed the report.
Jung could have a chance to start his pro career at High-A West Michigan. While Single-A Lakeland would be a normal starting spot, the Tigers have several younger, highly rated infield prospects there such as No. 4 prospect Cristian Santana, No. 7 prospect Izaac Pacheco and No. 13 prospect Manuel Sequera. All are teenagers, and Tigers vice president of player development Ryan Garko said that all will likely spend the foreseeable future in Lakeland rather than get a midseason promotion to West Michigan.
Jung is expected to play second base to begin his pro career. He’s the first college middle infielder the Tigers have ever selected with their top first-round pick, and the first middle infielder of any level to go as Detroit’s top pick in 20 years. Though Nick Castellanos was a high school shortstop when Detroit drafted him with its top pick in 2010, the team announced him as a third baseman.
This season, Jung hit .335 with 14 home runs, 59 walks and only 42 strikeouts, following up on a 2021 season in which he batted .337 with 21 homers, 49 walks and 45 strikeouts. In his Texas Tech career, Jung is a .328 hitter with 39 home runs and 126 walks to 102 K’s, and led the Red Raiders to two NCAA Tournament appearances.
The combination of hard contact and plate discipline made him the Tigers’ kind of hitter. But the competitiveness appealed to them as well.
“You can see his emotion and his competitiveness on the field and how he wants to win, which is huge,” Tigers amateur scouting director Scott Pleis said. “You’ll see it as you watch him play. He’s a gritty guy, but his teammates love to watch him play. Just a lot of good traits to be a championship ballplayer.”
Jung, like his older brother Josh, was a star hitter at Texas Tech. Though their time in Lubbock didn’t overlap, with Jace arriving the year after Josh was drafted, both Jung brothers were All-Americans for the Red Raiders. Jace was a back-to-back All-American, as well as a back-to-back Academic All-American.
Three years younger than Josh, the 21-year-old Jace was the fourth-ranked college hitter in this year’s Draft class and the top lefty college bat.
If Jung goes to West Michigan to play second base, that could leave the Tigers with a decision to make on No. 12 prospect Colt Keith, who was enjoying a breakout season with the Whitecaps before suffering a shoulder injury diving into first base last month. The 20-year-old was batting .301/.370/.544 at the time of the injury while splitting time between second and third base. The Tigers are hoping to get him back in action before the Minor League season ends in September.