Boston Red Sox Prospects: For Jeter Downs 2021 was “adjustment” year
People wrote off Red Sox prospect Jeter Downs after a bad 2021 season, but he’s proving that he’s made the proper adjustments
Most fans were devastated when the Boston Red Sox traded away superstar Mookie Betts to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Rightfully so. Not only was he one of the best players in baseball, but he was one of the most easily likable personalities in sports. A fan-favorite.
The return was interesting though. Los Angeles sent over Alex Verdugo (who has been a stud), Connor Wong (who has plenty of potential at catcher), and Jeter Downs (who was seen as the big “get” for Boston).
With 2020 having no MiLB season, we didn’t get to see Wong and Downs right away. 2021 gave us our first real look at the two prospects.
Wong went on to have a solid season in Triple-A. And the catcher even made it to the Majors, where he quickly impressed.
Downs was a different story. The middle infielder spent the entire year in Triple-A. There, the right-handed hitter slashed .190/.272/.333 with just nine doubles and 14 home runs. He drove in 39 runs and scored 39 more, stealing 18 bases (one of the few parts of his game that looked good last season). Downs struck out 131 times in 357 at-bats. It was all bad.
There was something that I was saying a lot last year during the weekly prospect watch though. Downs was just 22. He missed all of the 2020 season due to the MiLB season being cancelled. Oh, and prior to 2021 he had just 48 career at-bats (in 12 games) in Double-A. Double-A, not Triple-A. He had never played in Triple-A before.
So Downs basically had a year off, then skipped a level in the minors. I don’t know why the Red Sox felt the need to rush him there, but they did it. And it led to a disastrous year.
Let’s not forget though, when Boston got him, Downs was considered one of the better prospects in baseball. Dude had it all with no real “weakness” in his game. He looked like the type of prospect that could give you everything. Not just “be okay” at it all, but be good-to-great at everything.
So was the trade too much for him? Was this new spotlight too bright? Did the Red Sox get a prospect that simply couldn’t handle the higher levels? Or, did he just need to adjust after such a big jump in the minors?
If 2022 is any indication, Downs just needed to adjust. And he’s done just that. We’re now into May. It’s not like the season is old, but it’s not brand new anymore. The 23-year-old has appeared in 22 games, picking up 85 at-bats.
In that time, Downs is slashing .247/.360/.518 with three doubles, one triple, and six home runs. He’s driven in 10 runs, scored 22 more, and stolen four bases.
This isn’t some elite season, but Downs is producing very nicely. That’s a whole lot of runs scored. He’s hitting for power too. Yes, the strikeouts are a problem (35 already is a bit of an issue). But is there really anything else to complain about?
Since April 15, he’s hitting .276 with one double and five home runs. He’s driven in 8 of his 10 and scored 17 of his 22 runs. Downs even has 11 of his 14 walks in that time. It’s clear that something has clicked.
Want to get even better than that? Since April 24, Downs is hitting .310 with one double and four homers. He’s driven in seven runs and scored 11 more, drawing five walks. We could be seeing him put it all together in real-time right now.
Maybe we still won’t get that superstar prospect that everyone was expecting. But this is no longer that same lost bat at the plate. Downs made the adjustments that he needed to make and it’s starting to show. What just a month ago was looking like a total bust for Boston is showing signs of life.
Jeter Downs is a perfect example of why not to give up on someone. One bad year doesn’t spell the end of a career. The Boston Red Sox didn’t lose hope on him. And that is starting to pay off.