Written by: Adam Weil
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Red Sox No. 1 Prospect Jeter Downs 2B/SS |Tulsa Drillers (AA)
22 Years Old | Throw: R | Bat: R | 5’11” | 195 lbs. | ETA: 2021
Jeter Downs, named after Derek Jeter and brother to Red Sox Prospect Jerry Downs, was selected by Cincinnati 31st overall in 2017. He was involved in his first major trade when he went to LAD in a massive 7 player deal that included Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, Alex Wood, and Kyle Farmer in exchange for Homer Bailer, Josiah Gray, and Jeter Downs. His second major deal in his young career, Red sox acquired him in the infamous Mookie Betts trade (I’ll spare the Red Sox fans the details). While Verdugo captured most of the headlines in the return, Downs is no throw-in piece. He supports a career triple slash of .267/.359/.458 with 113 extra-base hits (including 43 Home runs) and swiped 69 bags in 92 attempts. What is really encouraging is he ended 2019 in AA Tulsa and hit the ground running, just look at his progression year over year.
While it is unclear what 2020 will do to player development, reports from the alternate site were positive and an invitation to Spring Training is never a bad thing. Downs is likely to start the year in AA or AAA, but I predict he will be in a Red Sox jersey at some point this season. This is a Bona Fide player, he works hard to continually improve, and on a Red Sox team looking to the future, he is likely to see some playing time in the MLB this year, especially if there are injuries to the middle infield.
HIT – 45/55
Jeter Downs has an open stance and starts with hands higher up by his ears, keeps his hands inside early, and extends through contact well. His swing is smooth and efficient with good bat speed and he works deep into counts frequently. His bat path is steep and causes some swing and miss, especially with inside high fastballs. The two biggest concerns about his hit tool are the K rate and his pull tendency. These have led some to worry that his hit tool will end up closer to average to mediocre.
As shown above, his K rate is in the 18%-20% range. While this is not ideal, I don’t think it is anything alarming. The above-average BB% coupled with a slightly below average K% shows that his approach may be a bit too patient, but as he continues to develop and sees more pitches, his approach should improve. The second concern relates to his tendency to pull the ball more frequently.
As shown above, he pulls the ball 40+%. In today’s game, players are required to spray the ball more than ever before. However, it does seem like Downs has actively worked on this. Comparing 2018 and 2019 spray charts it looks like he is using more of the field.
Both concerns warrant watching closely as he progresses in 2021 because they will likely dictate what his hit tool can be. If he continues to use more of the field and improves his already good approach at the plate, his hit tool could improve.
Power – 40/50
Standing at 5’11 with a lean build, Jeter Downs uses his quick hands, solid barrel control, and steep bat path to tap into more power than you would expect. He hits the ball hard, and in the air frequently, evidenced by his fly ball rate above 50% at every level. In 2019 he showed off the power with 24 home runs and .526 SLG. As stated earlier, the majority of the hits are coming from the pull side, with exactly 1 oppo taco pre-2019. In 2019 he started to display the ability to hit with more power to all parts of the field and ended with 6 of his home runs were to the opposite part of the field.
This improvement appears to have continued at the Alt site.
He may never become a slugger to all fields, but his deceptive power will lead to a healthy number of home runs to the pull side, with the occasional home run to opposite field sprinkled in.
Speed – 50/50
Downs does not possess special speed. In fact, it is very average. However, his speed plays up because of a high baseball IQ. He has 69 career stolen bases out of 92 attempts, which sounds great, unfortunately, he is unlikely to continue to post 20+ steals a year. He will never be a burner, but he will continue to be an efficient base runner, swiping bags as the opportunity presents itself.
Field – 50/50 | ARM – 55/55
Drafted as a SS, Jeter Downs has played the majority of his innings there, but he has bounced between 2B and SS. With a quick first step, good hands, strong instincts, and good arm strength Downs can play a serviceable shortstop. However, his future home is likely to be 2B. Outside of the Xander Bogaerts sized roadblock in Boston, his range leaves a bit to be desired. His work ethic and instincts could lead to some UTIL time, but he is on track to play an average everyday second base for Boston in the semi-near future.
Jeter Downs has taken an eventful journey to Boston, but Fenway may be one of the better ballparks for Downs. His pull-heavy approach will make the green monster Downs’ new best friend. He does not have any single standout tool, but he has a strong well-rounded profile with strengths on both sides of the ball. He has shown a level of work ethic and intelligence that coaches dream of meaning he is likely to continue trending in a positive direction. As his hit tool progresses, he can become an average everyday starter with the chance to be an all-star second baseman. He will hit for average, steal some bags, draw a healthy number of walks, and put more than a few balls over the outfield fence. 2021 will be a big year for his development and It will be exciting not only for the organization but the fan base as well to see what type of player he can become.