DETROIT — When Jace Jung was a 10th grader at Douglas MacArthur High School in San Antonio, Texas, his teacher, Frank Filipone, would tell Jung almost daily that he would eventually be drafted by the Detroit Tigers.
Jung said he frequently dismissed Filipone, who is an avid Tigers fan. But after Detroit selected Jung 12th overall in the 2022 MLB Draft, Filipone was one of the first people Jung called to share the celebration.
“It was crazy,” Jung said in his introductory media session on July 17. “I called him right after the Draft, and he was screaming and everything. It was just funny. It was awesome.”
According to MLB Pipeline’s Top Draft Prospects list for 2022, Jung is ranked ninth overall. And when the 6-foot, 205-pound infielder was still on the board for the 12th pick, Tigers director of amateur scouting Scott Pleis was thrilled.
“We were a little bit worried that he would go before us,” Pleis said about Jung. “We were super happy when he got to us. He’s a guy we’ve been talking about for a long time.”
Jung, 21, joins the organization after hitting .335 with 14 home runs and 57 RBIs in 61 games for Texas Tech in the 2022 season, when he earned First-Team All-Big 12 honors. In 2021, Jung was named Big 12 Conference Player of the Year after leading the conference in OPS (1.279), slugging percentage (.779), walks (45), RBIs (65) and home runs (20).
In 136 games over three seasons with Texas Tech, Jung batted .328/.468/.647 with 39 home runs, 32 doubles and 147 RBIs.
“The obvious stuff is his ability — his power from the left-hand side,” Pleis said. “He’s going to be a good second baseman.”
Jung also demonstrated a good feel for the strike zone throughout his collegiate career, drawing 126 walks.
Pleis added that Jung has “a lot of good traits to be a championship ballplayer.”
“You can see his emotion and his competitiveness on the field and how he wants to win, which is huge,” Pleis said. “You’ll see it as you watch him play. He’s a gritty guy, but his teammates love to watch him play.”
Jung has begun his professional baseball career with the High-A West Michigan Whitecaps, and he describes himself as a “sparkplug who likes to get rallies going.”
“I like to compete nonstop,” Jung said. “I like to be a vocal leader on the field, and I like to just get after it pitch by pitch. I’m intense. I just love having fun and winning.”
The Tigers closed out Day 1 of the 2022 MLB Draft by selecting Oklahoma infielder Peyton Graham with their second-round pick, No. 51 overall.
Graham, 21, had a standout 2022 campaign, hitting .333 with 20 home runs and 71 RBIs in 67 games, helping the Sooners reach the College World Series.
Last season, Graham also made history by recording the first 20-homer, 30-steal season by a Division I college player in 18 years.
“I never was really going for it or anything, it just kind of happened,” Graham said about reaching the milestone. “The stolen bases came really quick, but the home runs took a little bit longer than I anticipated. But we got there.”
Graham’s stellar play earned him First Team All-America honors by Baseball America, D1Baseball and the National College Baseball Writers of America (NCBWA). Graham was also a finalist for the Brooks Wallace Award for the nation’s top shortstop and a semifinalist for the Golden Spikes Award.
Pleis pointed out that Graham’s 6-foot-4, 171-pound frame hides deceiving power and speed.
“Everybody looks at the body and wouldn’t project power, but the guy’s got freaky power for his build,” Pleis said about Graham. “Just a super-talented guy and a competitive guy.”
Graham entered the 2022 Draft ranked as the second-best college player by Baseball America, but he said his development hasn’t been without challenges.
“I’ve always been the guy that’s gotten the cracked end of the stick,” Graham said. “I’ve always had to work for everything I’ve gotten. Going into college, only had one offer. I worked for that, to get to the position I am now, and I’m blessed to be here.”
Looking ahead, Graham and Jung could be Detroit’s double-play tandem of the future. They already have chemistry, having roomed and played together with the Santa Barbara Foresters of the California Collegiate League in 2020.
Graham, whose big league journey begins with the Low-A Lakeland Flying Tigers, feels the organization added talent on the first night of the 2022 MLB Draft.
“I know I hate losing, and I know [Jung] hates losing as much as I do,” Graham said. “I think the Tigers got two really solid picks with us.”
Over the three days of the 2022 MLB Draft, the Tigers added 19 players, including 12 pitchers and seven position players, all from the college ranks.