AJ Hinch compares top prospect to Tigers fans’ least favorite player

Detroit Tigers infielder Jace Jung practices during spring training at TigerTown in Lakeland, Fla.
Detroit Tigers infielder Jace Jung practices during spring training at TigerTown in Lakeland, Fla. / Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK

AJ Hinch told No. 4 prospect Jace Jung that he wouldn't be making the major league team pretty much out of the gate at Detroit Tigers' spring training. Jung, No. 3 prospect Jackson Jobe, and No. 6 prospect Ty Madden were just there to observe, work out with the big leaguers, maybe get a few at-bats or innings in during games — but because none have cracked Double-A yet (Jobe was still in High-A at the end of 2023), they wouldn't be on the Opening Day roster.

Jung seemed like a good enough sport about it, but that hasn't stopped him from taking his appearances in spring training games very seriously. He's appeared in two games and taken two at-bats so far. The first resulted in a walk that later turned into a run, but Jung scowled as he took his free base.

Per Chris McCosky of The Detroit News, Hinch said of Jung and the at-bat, it was "the most angry walk you’re going to get out of a first-year guy. [...] He’s going to rival Javy (Báez) with his disdain for walks" (subscription required).

Now, Hinch clearly meant this as a compliment. Jung is a competitive player who wants to see pitches he can actually hit instead of getting a free pass. However, can a comparison to Báez when it comes to getting on base ever actually be a compliment?

Detroit Tigers manager AJ Hinch said Jace Jung would "rival Javier Báez in his disdain for walks"

Báez's hatred for walking isn't new; believe it or not, his league-worst .267 OBP in 2023 wasn't even this worst OBP on a year. In 2020, his last year with the Cubs, he was at .238, and he has a .298 OBP for his entire career. He only walked 4.4% of the time in both 2022 and 2023, but neither of those are career lows for him, either.

In High-A and Double-A, Jung has also seen his walk rates decline over the past two years. In 2022 at High-A, he walked 18.7% of the time, but that dipped to 11% during the 47 games he played in Double-A in 2023. That 11% still makes Jung above-average in his plate discipline, but the steep decline does suggest some patience is wearing thin. At least Jung, unlike Báez, can actually make contact; he sported a very nice .284/.373/.563 line in Double-A.

So Jung hasn't given us a reason to worry about being too swing-happy yet, but maybe Hinch should dream up another comparison that doesn't give Tigers fans immediate cause to be afraid of his development.