No. 11: Red Sox middle infield prospect Jeter Downs
2021 was not very kind to Jeter Downs. The second baseman and shortstop slashed .190/.272/.333 in 99 games (357 at-bats). However, there are a few things I feel people should remember when it comes to him.
Downs was playing in a new organization – a year after the 2020 minor league season was cancelled. He was also doing so while playing in Triple-A. Before this year, he had 12 career games in Double-A – nothing higher than that. He also spent most of the year as a 22-year-old at the highest level of the minors.
A lot of things were going against Downs here and with it, the numbers suffered for the right-handed hitter. Nine doubles was a terrible sign. He hit 23 in 2018 and 35 in 2019. The 14 homers were down from 24 in 2019, but still decent. Run production wasn’t great either, with 39 RBI and 39 runs scored. While his steals were down, getting 18 in just 21 attempts is very promising.
Downs is an all-around talent. You shouldn’t judge him too harshly on his 2021 season. The bright side is that he was swinging a much better bat towards the end of the year. Let’s not give up on a 23-year-old who was highly touted coming into the season.
Downs still has the potential to be a .280-plus bat. And even in his down year he showed that he is able to hit the ball out of the park. With more than enough speed, he has gap power that could lead to a high volume of doubles and triples. 20-plus home runs is easily within the realm of possibilities as well.
Downs has a good amount of speed, and is a solid base runner. 20 steals is doable. Might dip below that usually, but could throw in a few 20-20 seasons if he gets on-base enough.
He also has a pretty solid eye. Even in 2021, was able to walk a decent amount (38) and if he can start to improve at the plate again that number should rise. Downs does have a bit of a strikeout issue though. It was very prevalent in 2021. Outside of that, it was never too worrisome, but still something to keep an eye on. Hopefully he can bounce back on that as well.
Defensively, Downs is very solid. Probably won’t win any Gold Gloves. However, he shouldn’t be an issue at either of the two middle infield spots. That gives the Red Sox a little bit of flexibility. He would probably work better at second base. He seems more natural there. And if he makes a few improvements, a Gold Glove wouldn’t be the craziest thing. Solid arm, will make all the throws he needs to. Looks good turning double plays.
Overall, Downs still has all the potential in the world. He’s not insane in any one category, but could be above-average in all of them. Good contact, solid power, decent speed with great base running ability, reliable arm, soft glove. It’s all there.
Like I said earlier, don’t let one (admittedly miserable) year turn you off of Downs. The Red Sox still see big things for him. All the tools are there, now he just needs to get back to his dangerous ways. It will be interesting to see how he handles Triple-A next season now that he has had a lot of time there. If he figures it out, could we see him in the Majors in 2022?