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Rangers Using Youth Movement for their 2023 Playoff Push

Rangers Using Youth Movement for their 2023 Playoff Push

We’re going down to the wire. The next week determines the Rangers’ fate if their quest for a first World Series title continues or if their offseason starts before the leaves change. It’s been a roller coaster year for the Texas Rangers, but one thing is clear: the club’s youth is taking over. In past two weeks, Rangers fans fell in love with the 2nd round draft pick from 2020, Evan Carter. They’ve seen his bat take over games, his arm and glove save games, and his demeanor showcase an individual unfazed by the moment of the big show. Meanwhile, at the hot corner, the Rangers 2019 first-round pick, Josh Jung, came back earlier in the week and made immediate impacts after the club went 16-21 without Josh in the lineup. It’s a Rangers team filled with veteran experience, but the youngsters are putting their stamp on the team’s success.

Josh Jung

We knew even after draft day the offensive powerhouse Josh Jung brings, but in 2023, Josh has done something he said in Spring Training: he wanted to cut down on strikeouts. Statically, he has cut it down by 9% and raised his walk percentage by 2%. He is still consistent on pitches swung inside and outside the zone but is making more contact (fouling pitches off), resulting in better at-bats. I asked Bruce Bochy earlier in the week about if the presence of Jung and Adolis García impacts the other seven guys in the lineup.

“I think so. [Adolis and Josh’s] presence means a lot,” Bochy said. “With the opposing pitcher does [with] two tough hitters you have to navigate through, and it puts more pressure on them, and they can’t focus. As far as our lineup, it stretches it out. Mitch Garver a week ago was hitting cleanup (was hitting seventh on the home stand).”

One of the more prominent standouts is the defense of Josh Jung. Friday’s error marked Josh’s fourth error of 2023 in over 970 innings played at third base. His ultimate zone rating (according to Statcast) puts Josh near the top of third baseman in baseball (behind Manny Machado of the Padres). It was an aspect of Josh’s game that he wanted to improve, and throughout the season, he’s become one of the most reliable infielders on the Rangers and in baseball. The thumb injury may have pushed Jung out of the rookie of the year conversation, but it’s a conversation that Jung should still be a part of.

Evan Carter

Since Spring Training, and possibly longer, eyes have widened for Evan Carter. Each tested-level Carter played in, he’s passed with flying colors. For Evan, the majors are no different. Since his call-up, Carter is 7th in MLB overall WAR (0.7). He’s hitting .344 and ranks top 5 in OPS (1.212). His strikeout rate is a little higher, but he’s walking at a pace that ranks in the top 10 in baseball. All this equates to is a young man not intimated by the big leagues.

“I’ve seen a gifted hitter and a disciplined line hitter,” Bochy said. “This is the player we saw in Spring Training, and we’ve heard about. He’s having fun [and] smiling. He comes back with a big smile like a little kid playing the game like we used to play when we were young. This kid is playing like he isn’t feeling any pressure.”

For those who suggest moving Carter up in the lineup, Marcus Semien and Corey Seager round out the top of the lineup. Hitting ninth is like a second leadoff hitter. Since he got to the big leagues, Carter is second among ninth-place hitters with ten or more plate appearances in batting average (.379). He has more home runs, RBI, runs scored, and OPS, and he blows the water in wRC (weighted runs created).

“I like Carter there. He gives us speed, turns the order around. I like him hitting ninth,” Bochy said when I asked him if the ninth-place hitter is more crucial than the eighth with the Rangers’ lineup construction. “It goes back to before the DH, pitchers hitting ninth, then they started hitting eighth, and that started becoming a popular deal. You try to weigh what’s the best thing.”

Regardless of hitting eighth, ninth, cleanup, or whatever, Evan Carter is making his presence known on the Rangers and in the league.

As the season winds down, another player fans and the front office keep their eyes on is Wyatt Langford. Langford is breezing through the Rangers system, and while it’s unlikely Langford will make the big leagues in 2023, it appears his Rangers debut is looming for 2024. With what Texas is seeing from their youth in the majors, it just fires everyone back up.

Credentialed Media Staff Writer covering the Texas Rangers for Dallas Sports Fanatic | 2014 University of North Texas graduate with a Bachelor's in Radio, Television, and Film. I talk about things. Find me on the tweeter @aplinckTX

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