The Red Sox, as you may have heard, officially made a trade on Monday, sending Mookie Betts and David Price to the Dodgers in exchange for Alex Verdugo, Jeter Downs and Connor Wong. We’ll have more on Verdugo at a later time, but for now we are going to stay in the farm system and focus on the two prospects they got back. Downs is the more highly-rated prospect among the duo, but Wong is coming off of a big season in his own right. We’re going to go over their respective scouting reports below, and then in the comments we’ll determine if both, one or neither deserve a spot in our community rankings to the point where we’ve gotten thus far. Earlier today we reached the number eight spot with Thad Ward.
Jeter Downs, INF
The first thing that you’ll notice about Jeter Downs is that his name is Jeter, and to answer your question yes he is named after Derek. We’re going to have to get over that weirdness, I’m afraid. As a player, there is plenty to like with Downs. A right-handed hitter, he spent 2019 — his age-20 season — mostly in High-A, where he hit a ridiculous .269/.354/.507 with 19 homers in 107 games. Of course, keep in mind this was the Cal League, which is very hitter friendly. Even with that caveat, he had a very impressive 134 wRC+, which adjusts for the run environment of the league. He got a 12-game taste of Double-A at the end of the year where he hit .333/.429/.688.
On the scouting side, Downs is a sum-of-the-parts type of prospect rather than one who relies on a carrying tool or two. In other words, he’s good at a lot of things but not really great at anything. His hit tool and power saw some growth last year with a new swing path, and while the hit tool is probably only average, there’s a chance it gets in a tick above and also helps him maximize his in-game power. Defensively, there were some questions about his range at shortstop, but that shouldn’t be an issue for the Red Sox since he’ll likely shift nearly full-time to second base in 2020. His relatively lack of range — it’s not a disaster, just not ideal for shortstop — plays much better their with shifting, and his hands and footwork should play in the middle infield. On the bases, he has average speed which could fall as his body matures, but his IQ on the bases should help make up for that and keep him an average contributor with his legs.
By most scouts’ opinions, Downs is on of the top two prospects in the system, along with Triston Casas. Sox Prospects has not yet ranked him, but FanGraphs has Downs ahead and MLB Pipeline had Downs ahead of Casas on their top 100 list. Baseball America, on the other hand, had Casas ahead of Downs. Head down to the comments to make your choice on where Downs should land.
Connor Wong, C/INF
Wong is less likely to fall into the top eight on our prospect list, though it’s not totally out of the question. First, some background. Wong also had a big year in 2019, though he is quite a bit older — 2020 will be his age-20 season — and a lot of his success was predicated on batting average on balls in play. Still, like Downs he started his season in High-A, though he was repeating the level. Wong looked better in his second go around, though, hitting .245/.306/.507 for a 118 wRC+. That earned him a promotion to Double-A after 71 games, and he tore up that level over the final 40 games of the year. With 163 plate appearances in that time, he hit .349/.393/.604 for a 175 wRC+. Of course, that was boosted by a .467 BABIP, which is obviously not sustainable. It is also worth noting Wong struck out over 30 percent of the time at both levels.
Offensively, Wong’s best asset is his power, and when he connects he can hit plenty of balls over the fence with above-average raw power. The bad news is his hit tool, which is decidedly below average. As long as he swings and misses as often as he does, he won’t be able to tap into that power as much, and his in-game power ceiling right now is more average. Defensively, he has gotten time in the infield at second and third base, but he should be able to stick behind the plate. That said, he’s not a good enough defender or hitter to play their full-time, so his best role might be a utility one.
There aren’t a lot of reference points for where to rank Wong. FanGraphs is the only list as far as I can tell that has added him in, and they have him at number 16. It is, however, worth noting that they divvy up their list by Future Value Grades, and Wong’s FV of 40 is part of a big group that spans from number eight all the way down to number 22, so there’s a lot of potential variance of opinion in that group. For Wong, I am going to have a simple yes or no vote as to whether or not he should be added in among our top eight. If it looks like yes will win, I’ll add in more options to see where exactly he would fit.
The voting on both of these will work just like the top prospect voting. Just find the option you want to vote for and hit the “rec” button to cast your vote. You must be a site member to participate. I am tentatively planning to close the voting Thursday night.