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Red Sox Top Prospect Voting: Jeter Downs runs away with second spot

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I couldn’t catch him.

Kelly O’Connor

We kicked off our top prospect voting last week, and things started off with a bang. In an extremely close vote that actually ended in a tie, Triston Casas took the tiebreaker and with it earned the title of number one prospect in the system by our community rankings. This next vote was, predictably, not so close. The second spot in our rankings goes to Jeter Downs, who had tied Casas in the previous round and won a whopping 74 percent of the vote this time around.

Downs was not originally drafted by the Red Sox organization, instead being selected by the Reds back in 2017 in the compensation round. The infielder was the 32nd overall pick that year coming out of Monsignor Pace High School in Florida. Downs stayed in the Cincinnati organization for a couple of years, showing good plate discipline at Rookie Ball in his professional debut but struggling to hit the ball with much authority. The Reds still gave him a shot in full-season ball in 2018, and Downs responded well, hitting .257/.351/.402 for a 118 wRC+ in A-Ball.

After that performance, the Reds sent him on the move. In the offseason prior to the 2019 season, he was involved in a trade that sent Yasiel Puig, Alex Wood and Matt Kemp to the Dodgers in what was effectively a luxury tax salary dump for the Dodgers that also brought Homer Bailey back to their roster. It was a convoluted deal, but L.A. did end up with Downs in the process, and he excelled in that first year in the Dodgers organization.

At 20 years old, he started 2019 in High-A and absolutely crushed it, hitting .269/.354/.507 for a 134 wRC+. He was playing in the extremely hitter-friendly California League, but even with that in mind he was showing power that he had never put on display as a pro prior to that. The performance was enough to get him up to Double-A for the final portion of the season, and he kept the production up in a small sample. It was only 12 games at Double-A, but he hit .333/.429/.688 for a 207 wRC+.

That would, of course, be the only season Downs spent in the Dodgers organization as he was on the move again last winter, this time being the top prospect coming back in the Mookie Betts trade. Whether he was the top piece at the time depended on your thoughts on Alex Verdugo, but he was a significant part of the return to be sure. Unfortunately, as we know he didn’t get to participate in game action, though he was at the Alternate Site in Pawtucket.

As far as the scouting reports go, Downs is something of a Rorschach test as to how you think about prospects. On the negative side, there isn’t really a standout tool here or anything you can lean on and say: This is always going to be there and thus set a floor. On the other hand, he is solid across the board. Offensively, scouts see a real chance at an average-to-above-average hit tool and the same goes for his power as well. When you combine that with a good defensive profile that can certainly handle second base, and likely do so at a high level, and potentially shortstop if he was in another organization, that’s a really solid player who could make some All-Star games if things go well. Personally, I’m typically in on sum of the parts type players, particularly when they play the middle infield, but it’s fair to be worried about that lack of stand out tool.

Downs was added to the 40-man roster this past winter to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft, meaning he could potentially make his major-league debut as soon as this season. That was certainly the plan last year before the minor-league system got shut down, making it all the more difficult to put a timeline on a player’s path to the majors. Still, at this point Downs is expected to start the season at Triple-A Worcester, and it will effectively be on him as to whether or not he’ll get the call. The Red Sox have other depth options at second base, most notably Michael Chavis and Jonathan Araúz, so they won’t feel a need to rush him if he doesn’t earn it. On the other hand, the options in front of him on the depth chart likely aren’t good enough to hold him back if he does perform. My guess is that he’s up at some point in the final six weeks of the season or so, but again it’s entirely up to him and his performance.

Here is our list thus far:

  1. Triston Casas
  2. Jeter Downs

Now, you can head down into the comments and vote for the number three prospect. As a reminder, to do this you go down below and find the comment from me corresponding with the player for whom you’d like to vote. When you find said player, just click the “rec” button, and that will count your vote. To do this, you will need to be logged in as a member of the site. If you’d like to vote for a player who is not listed, just leave a comment saying “Vote for ___ here” and I’ll rec the comment to count your vote. We encourage discussion, of course, but please don’t comment under specific players’ names. Instead, scroll to the bottom to start a new comment thread in order to keep the players at the top of the comment section. Until next time...