Red Sox prospect Jeter Downs is going to the Futures Game
The stars of tomorrow will be on display in Colorado next month during the All-Star festivities. The rosters have been announced for the 2021 Futures Game, which reveals that Boston Red Sox infield prospect Jeter Downs has been named to the American League team.
The Futures Game will follow the revised format introduced in 2019, pitting the American League against the National League. Each side will have a 25-man roster with all 30 teams represented and no more than two prospects from the same organization.
Downs is ranked as the No. 2 prospect in the Red Sox organization and No. 35 overall, according to MLB Pipeline. The Red Sox acquired him last year in the blockbuster deal that sent Mookie Betts to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The rules mandate that at least one Red Sox prospect had to make the team and the lofty ranking warrants putting Downs in the conversation. It’s worth questioning if he was the right choice though considering he’s not exactly producing at an All-Star level this year.
Downs is hitting a pedestrian .243 with a .733 OPS in 38 games for Triple-A Worcester. He’s flashed his five-tool upside by bashing seven home runs and swiping 10 bases in this relatively brief sample though. Downs tallied 24 of each across two minor league levels in 2019 so he certainly has that 20/20 upside that could make him a future star. He simply hasn’t put all of his skills on display yet this season. At least not at the level that a few other thriving prospects in Boston’s farm system have been producing.
Perhaps Jarren Duran’s exclusion was based on the committee agreeing with most of Red Sox Nation – that his future should be now. Boston’s No. 3 prospect is hitting .282 with a .988 OPS, 15 home runs and 8 stolen bases in 37 games with Worcester. The electric young outfielder is doing everything he can to force the team to promote him.
Unfortunately, the Red Sox don’t appear on the verge of calling up Duran, at least not before the All-Star break. However, there is another logical explanation for selecting Downs instead. As Alex Speier of The Boston Globe notes, both Duran and Triston Casas, the top-ranked prospect in the Red Sox system, are slated to join Team USA in pre-Olympic workouts during the same week as the Futures Game. That conceivably could be why neither was considered for an All-Star appearance.
Position eligibility might have also been a factor. Downs is the No. 8 shortstop ranked by MLB Pipeline, although that list still includes top overall prospect Wander Franco, who has already been promoted to the big leagues by the Tampa Bay Rays. Second-ranked shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. also made the team along with Toronto’s Austin Martin (No. 6 at the position, although he splits time in center field).
None of the other eligible shortstops ranked ahead of Downs have played above Double-A and some are still in Single-A. His proximity to the majors probably gave Downs and edge over his peers at the position who might have more long-term upside but aren’t ready for this stage yet.
It doesn’t hurt that Downs can also play second base. The AL roster only includes one second baseman, Tampa Bay’s Vidal Brujan, who sits right behind Downs in the overall rankings (No. 36).
Duran ranks No. 86 overall and sits outside the top-10 outfield prospects in baseball. With only six outfielders making the roster for each team and four of the top-six outfield prospects residing in AL organizations, it would have been a challenge for Duran to make the cut even if the Red Sox warranted multiple All-Stars from their system.
Casas might have a case for being snubbed since he’s the No. 1 first base prospect in baseball but he’s been slumping a bit in Double-A, hitting .269 with a .763 OPS. Kansas City’s Nick Pratto has performed better at the same level this year and was therefore given the AL’s only first base spot. It also doesn’t help that 2020 No. 1 overall draft pick Spencer Torkelson, the No. 3 prospect overall, has split time at first base this year despite being listed as a third baseman.
Downs isn’t the most hyped Red Sox prospect, the highest-rated or the most productive this season. However, various factors led to him being the only prospect in the organization to be selected for the Futures Game.
The Futures Game will be held at Coors Field on July 11 at 3 p.m. ET. It will be televised on MLB Network, streamed on MLB.com and air on SiriusXM.
The Red Sox are expecting to send several players from their major league roster to Colorado for this year’s Midsummer Classic. The Futures Game offers us a glimpse of the exciting prospects who could one day follow in their footsteps to reach that stage. Whether or not Downs is the most deserving prospect based on his production this year, it’s clear that he’s oozing with potential with the upside to be a future star.