The Rangers announced Wednesday that third base top prospect Josh Jung underwent surgery to repair a labrum tear in his left shoulder (non-throwing). The target for Jung to return is an estimated six months which would be mid-August, but that’s if things go smoothly. Plus, if Jung can play in mid-August, it would have to be at designated hitter. With the lockout still moving, the Rangers haven’t been able to see their forty-man roster guys, but with minor leaguers in Surprise right now, the Rangers are gauging their options. So the question becomes, who will fill that hole at third base for Texas in 2022?
IKF is likely the front-runner candidate to start at third base on opening day. Isiah won the 2020 Gold Glove at third in the American League, and Kiner-Falefa’s defense speaks for itself. To say Isiah regressed in 2021 is false. However, the numbers slightly decreased. Many fans hoped some improvement would come for the Texas 2021 Opening Day shortstop, but the numbers resembled 2020 (on an average). Jung’s injury does increase the value of IKF for the Rangers, and if Texas wants to auction Kiner-Falefa to other organizations, his value increases. I’d say putting Isiah as the opening day third baseman for Texas is a safe bet, but the motto of the Rangers is that everyone has to earn their spot.
This double play by @Isiahkf11 is so damn fun to watch. One of my favorite defensive plays by him this year, and boy has he had some great ones. Can’t wait to see the hardware he racks up this off-season.
— Texas Rangers Highlights (@RangersHlghts) October 23, 2021
Ibáñez was Texas’ most consistent hitter down the stretch in 2021. Unfortunately, Andy only got half a September to play due to injury. Nevertheless, Ibáñez finished the year on a seven-game hitting streak and ended a solid rookie season. For those wondering, Andy played eleven games at third base last season with one error, although he got most of his reps at second base. If Ibáñez excels at camp coupled with a sub-par Isiah Kiner-Falefa spring outing, the Rangers may take a chance and give Andy a shot at third base.
— MLB (@MLB) June 22, 2021
A non-forty man Player
Could the Rangers be bold and give guys like Justin Foscue and Josh Smith the nod at third base on opening day? I wouldn’t count on that. However, if things look bleak down the road, Texas could get wild and give someone a shot. Considering 2022 is a jumpstart but not postseason likely type year, the Rangers’ plan likely is not to rush their more coveted minor league talent, especially since they feel Jung is their guy at third base. I’m not surprised that a few are taking groundballs because circumstances may deviate plans, but don’t get your hopes up in an unlikely Major League debut.
There are always external options the Rangers can take, especially if a team bites on a high-level auction of IKF from Texas. However, given the high praise of Josh Jung and how the club views him for the future, it doesn’t make sense to go external for a guy that most view could make his MLB debut shortly (before injury). If you view Jung as the future at third base and have third base options within the organization, it would cost less to let someone like Kiner-Falefa or Ibáñez get the nod. Unless Texas views this injury as more severe than anticipated, I don’t think Texas will hunt for a high-class third baseman post-lockout.
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