PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Jace Jung almost jumped out of his chair at the 2023 West Michigan Whitecaps Media Day when he was asked about hunting instead of baseball for a brief moment.
“Hunting and fishing, we could talk about that all day,” Jung said. “I killed a buck at our ranch in Texas and I actually went with a buddy of mine to his ranch and got my first ever mule deer and I’m pretty pumped about that, getting it mounted right now to put up when I get my house. I could talk about it all day.
“What was the next question?” he said. “I’m sorry.”
Jung couldn’t help but laugh because he was in a great mood. The 12th overall pick in the 2022 draft by the Detroit Tigers was just a day away from beginning his first full season as a professional player in High-A baseball.
The Texas Tech product no longer has to hear scouts talk about him or worry about the jitters of draft day or getting his first professional hit. He can just take the field at LMCU Ballpark Wednesday and prove what he has to offer.
“I’m ready to get my feet wet here in West Michigan playing in the cold, first off,” he said. “I’m ready to play in front of these fans again and have great teammates in the locker room with a great manager to go along with it.”
The No. 2 overall prospect in the Detroit Tigers farm system has been known for his bat since his days as a Red Raider. He hit .328 with 39 home runs and 147 runs batted in over three seasons (2020-22) at Texas Tech. After being called up to the Whitecaps on Aug. 5, 2022, for his first taste of professional baseball, Jung hit .232 with one home run and 13 RBIs in 30 games.
Even with all of the success Jung had hitting coming up through the different levels, he still worked on some adjustments this offseason and spring training in Lakeland, Florida, with the Tigers.
“I really tried to work on the pitches that teams were getting me out on,” Jung said. “Basically getting ready to be able to hit every pitch this year, I think that was a big thing for me. In college, they pitched around me a lot and it’s not the same here — they attack you a lot harder.”
He worked on not taking the first pitch every time he stepped into the box and having a plan ready to go. He wanted to also learn how to make adjustments when things aren’t going according to plan.
One small adjustment he made to his appearance at the plate was raising his hands high in the air before the pitch and putting his bat back at almost a 45 degree angle. He said this was to help him get fastballs up in the zone.
“It was helping me attack the ball better when it was up,” Jung said. “It’s what I felt more comfortable doing.”
Whitecaps manager Brayan Pena said he loves the mindset that Jung has had since he arrived late last season.
“He has been someone who shows leadership at a young age and has complete understanding of what the organization wants from him,” Pena said. “It says a lot about his character and he has great talent to match it. I’m excited to help him achieve his goals as a player.”
That talent is what got Jung drafted to Detroit and a lot of expectations came with it. He now has the chance to slow things down after a fast 2022 season and work toward being the player the Tigers want him to be.
For right now, his goal is winning with the Whitecaps, starting with Wednesday’s home opener against the Fort Wayne TinCaps.
“I’m trying to come into every day and enjoy this game,” Jung said. “So many people can get worked up on a bad day and let it affect their play. But I think we have a great group of guys here and we can work off of each other’s vibes. I think we do a great job of keeping each other humble and most importantly going out there and having fun winning. That’s the main goal here, to win and have fun.
“We want to leave this ballpark every day knowing that we did everything in our power to win that ballgame that day.”