Black MiLB Players #12: Jeter Downs
Jeter Downs is a 23-year-old Afro-Colombian middle infielder in the Boston Red Sox organization with an interesting combination of power and speed for an up-the-middle player. He brings solid on-base skills and a reliable glove to the table as well.
Background + Path to Professional Baseball
Jeter Downs is a twenty-three-year-old Afro-Colombian shortstop/second baseman in the Boston Red Sox organization that was born and raised in Colombia until he was four and then moved to Southern Florida with his family, where he grew up. Downs is named after Derek Jeter, as the Yankees Hall of Fame shortstop is his mother’s favorite player. The infielder is a second-generation professional baseball player as his father played professional baseball in Colombia for several years. His older brother Jerry Downs Jr. was a first baseman in the Red Sox organization from 2015–2019. Scouts viewed the younger Downs brother as one of the best high school hitters in his class but were skeptical about whether or not he had the range and speed to remain a full-time shortstop. He had a strong commitment to Miami University for baseball and was expected to be drafted within the first two rounds of the draft. He was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds with the 32nd overall pick of the 2017 MLB Draft out of Monsignor Edward Pace High School in Miami Gardens, Florida.
Downs agreed to his professional contract with the Reds on 6/23/2017, signing a 1.8 million dollar signing bonus. His professional career started in the 2017 Pioneer League, where he played 50 games and put up a .267/.370/.424 slash line with a 15% strikeout rate and a 12% walk rate, good for a 93 wRC+. In his second professional season and a first full season with an MLB affiliate, the infielder put up a .257/.351/.402 slash line in 120 games with the Cincinnati Reds Low-A affiliate. He displayed an intriguing combination of power and speed for an up-the-middle player, hitting 23 doubles, 13 home runs, and stealing 37 bases. During the winter before the 2019 season, he was involved in a trade that sent four players and cash to Cincinnati, while he, Homer Bailey, and Josiah Gray were headed to LA. During his 2019 season and first season as a member of the Dodgers organization, he made a marked improvement as he hit .276/.362/.526 in 119 games with 33 doubles, 19 home runs, and 24 stolen bases.
At the beginning of the 2020 season, Downs was involved in yet another trade as he and two other prospects were sent to the Boston Red Sox in exchange for outfielder Mookie Betts, pitcher David Price, and cash. He immediately became the Red Sox number one prospect. He impressed the Boston front office brain trust with his work at the alternate site, entrenching himself as a potential future core piece. Moved up to Triple-A as one of the youngest players in all three leagues for 2021, Downs struggled mightily. A thirty percent strikeout rate and .249 BABIP show that a young player was overmatched but still has a chance to turn it around. With a long and steady history of performance and encouraging underlying stats, all is not lost for the one who may cause Boston fans to chant Jeter. He has a long history of performance versus the best of his peers going back to his days in high school.
Jeter Downs is a shortstop/second baseman that throws and bats right-handed. He is 5'11'’, weighs around 190 pounds, and is built like your stereotypical middle infielder. Athletic and wiry frame, well built but not lumbering. Somewhat thick lower half for a middle infielder but should still stick.
Downs stands in the right-handed batter’s box with his hands held chin high and a bit outstretched. He moves his hands into hitting position before utilizing a short leg lift and unwinding a flat, quick, and efficient swing. With an advanced feel for hitting that he has displayed throughout his professional career, many individuals are high on what he brings to the table with a bat in his hands.
Downs uses an approach oriented around pulling the ball and hitting a lot of fly balls, and that has been his forte for his entire career so far. Downs has a natural loft in his swing, as he has a diagonal swing path that is optimal for lifting the ball towards his pull side. He has displayed a keen eye at the plate, posting walk rates between 9–12% at every level he has played. His strikeout rates have typically hovered in the teens and there have never been any red flags about him racking up a large number of strikeouts.
Downs has average baserunning speed but has excellent technique and instincts when it comes to base stealing. He also has shown productivity in his decision-making on the basepaths when the ball is put in his play. In every full season he has played, Downs has stolen at least 15 bases in all three of those seasons and more than 20 in two of those seasons.
He is a competent defender at shortstop, but sometimes lacks the range required to make the necessary plays to be a full-time shortstop at the major league level. He has great hands, footwork, and a solid arm to go with it. Downs is an above-average defender at second base, where his tools play up.
Jeter Downs profiles as a middle infielder that offers an intriguing combination of speed and power to go with solid defense and on-base skills. He may not be the most explosive athlete, but he has shown skills in a variety of facets of the game at a consistent level. Downs is on solid ground as a prospect that may get everyday at-bats for a good MLB team soon.