5: SS Jeter Downs
What to look for: Proof that 2020 WAS a fluke
The biggest disappointment last year in the Red Sox minor league system was undoubtedly Jeter Downs. The centerpiece of the Mookie Betts deal, Downs entered the season as the second-ranked prospect in the Red Sox organization and the 49th ranked prospect in all of baseball. In his previous two years in the Reds and the Dodgers organization, Downs combined for 51 bases and 37 home runs, a rate set of skills for a middle-infield prospect.
Yet while Downs still flashed the elite tools in his first season in the Red Sox organization, the rest of the game fell apart. He hit just .191 while showing abysmal plate discipline (38 BB, 131 K) that limited his ability to steal bases. Downs struggles only got worse as the season went on, as he went just 3-56 over a stretch in mid-August.
Despite his down season, the shine hasn’t completely worn off on Downs. Scouts still believe he has the hands and the arm strength to be a shortstop, and he would be an above-average second baseman if he were ever forced to move there.
And while his season at the plate was unquestionably a failure, he did manage to hit 14 home runs and swipe 18 bases. He also showed improvement in the Arizona Fall League, walking 14 times in just 72 plate appearances and smacking five home runs.
Downs still enters this year as the fifth-ranked prospect in the Red Sox system, which will be his first season where he will not be young for his level. Downs still has a significant role in the Red Sox future plans, but he needs to prove he can make the adjustments from a lost 2021 season.