Second Base Prospect Spotlight: Jeter Downs
Welcome to a continuation of our new Prospect Spotlight series, where we pair our prospect rankings with a deep dive on one of the players in that ranking. Here, we’ll dive deeper into the prospect’s fantasy profile, highlighting their background, skill set, and what we see for them coming down the pipeline. Prospects are the lifeblood of any dynasty league and we hope to bring you more great info on these rising stars in 2021 than ever before.
It’s a Family Game
Perhaps best known as a player included in the infamous Mookie Betts trade, Jeter Downs seems to be set up to lock up the Red Sox’s keystone position soon. Already involved in two major trades since 2017, the hype is beginning to build for the wirey infield prospect. Drafted 31st overall by the Cincinnati Reds straight from high school, and signed for 1.8 Million, Jeter downs comes from a baseball players’ family. In Columbia, his father played professionally before eventually taking a job with a cruise line and moving his family to Miami. The plan was always for Downs and his brother to have baseball as a part of their life, and both brothers are now in the Red Sox system. Baseball is in Jeter Downs’ blood. He’s even named after Derek Jeter.
Just 22 years-old, Downs appears poised to see some MLB plate appearances at some point in 2021. I wouldn’t expect him to start there, given he’s only seen 48 at-bats at Double-A in 2019. That was a great season for Downs, though, as he finished as one of only 10 MiLB players to have at least 20 homers and 20 steals. That power-speed combo is exactly what has our analysts so excited for him. Downs ranks second only to the mythos of Nick Gonzalez on our second base prospect list.
Downs has a very smooth swing that creates a ton of loft. So much so that he generates more power than you’d think for a player of his youth and size. He has yet to have a fly-ball rate below 50% throughout the minors. Combine all those fly balls with a pull approach, and the power output starts to come into the picture. Though his pull tendencies have some scouts worried about Down’s approach; unless he starts making use of the entire field, we can probably expect an average-to-mediocre hit tool. Good news! In 2019 he started to adjust his approach and use more of the field. One of his 19 homers was to the opposite field in his first two seasons- he met six the other way in 2019. Below you can see a quick comparison between his spray chart in 2018 vs 2019.
This certainly warrants watching in 2021, as it may really determine what kind of average Downs will be able to provide. If he can continue to progress in making contact to all fields his ceiling gets a significant bump. As of right now, the approach is a bit too patient and pull heavy. Often leaving Downs at a disadvantage with pitches in the outer half. There’s also some concern that he may be able to be beaten inside as well with higher velocities.
However, I am encouraged by several factors for Downs and his development. One is that his two recent organizations have been really great at developing offensive talent. Next, even if his approach was to remain fly-ball and pull-heavy, Fenway is a great place for that. Take a moment to look at the damage Mike Lowell did as a pull-hitter in his tenure with the Red Sox. The Green Monster will be a friend to Jeter Downs. Mostly though, I really like Downs swing. His great hands give me hope that he’ll develop a stronger than expected hit tool.
What Do Things Look Like Downs the Road
At this point, I’d hope I’ve made it quite obvious that Downs is a player worth targeting in any dynasty format. However, as I am a true cynic at heart, I must throw at least some cold water on Downs. Given his youth and position flexibility, he may break into the league as a utility player rather than an everyday second baseman. What the Red Sox do this offseason warrants watching, as they’ve at least expressed some interest in DJ Lemahieu and Kike Hernández. Regardless, Boston at the moment doesn’t have anyone threatening to block Downs from taking the starting gig at second.
While Downs’ game is not perfect, it’s quite easy to see why he’s ranked so aggressively across the industry. First, the bar is rather low at second base as far as fantasy profiles go. Second, there are just a ton of positive signs in his development. There is skepticism amongst scouts concerning his hit tool, but he posses both power and speed and keen knowledge of the strike zone. While he doesn’t possess blazing speed, he is a smart baserunner with a 75% success rate on steal attempts. Thus there is a myriad of ways that Downs may contribute to your dynasty team. The second base position is a wasteland, and long-term solutions are hard to come by in dynasty. Downs has a pretty decent shot at providing you with solid production for a good long time.