Image credit: Boston Red Sox
Nearly 15 months into his tenure with the Red Sox, Jeter Downs finally played an official game for his third organization on May 4, in the process becoming the first shortstop in the history of the Triple-A Worcester Red Sox.
“It’s been a fun journey—a weird one,” the 22-year-old said.
A breakthrough campaign in the Dodgers’ system in 2019—following a trade from the Reds in December 2018—helped bring Downs to Boston. In 2019, the righthanded hitter adjusted his approach to drive the ball in the air with greater frequency to right-center field.
In 119 games at High-A and Double-A, Downs hit .276/.362/.526 with 24 home runs, 35 doubles and 24 stolen bases. His advanced pitch recognition and feel for the strike zone, combined with tremendous bat speed that bought extra time for his swing decisions, made him one of the best prospects in the Dodgers system—and a target for the Red Sox in the Mookie Betts deal.
Inclusion in a blockbuster trade naturally put a spotlight on Downs, but that spotlight was effectively shut off by the 2020 minor league shutdown. At the alternate training site, the 5-foot-11, 195-pound Downs showed the traits of a top prospect but also some inconsistency.
“I think he has a strong arm. He has good instincts in the field. He shows things in practice and our intrasquads where you say, ‘That’s great,’ ” Worcester hitting coach Rich Gedman said.
“(But) I’ve been looking for a little more than I’ve seen so far . . . I think the potential is there, but I don’t just want to sit here and say that he’ll be our (big league) shortstop in the middle of the year, or our second baseman.”
Downs will play both middle infield positions this season. His combination of power and speed give him a ceiling of an above-average player.
But given his limited upper-levels experience, the 2017 supplemental first-rounder from Miami’s Monsignor Pace High seems likely to get a lengthy apprenticeship in Triple-A to learn to translate those tools to production.
— Righthander Bryan Mata had Tommy John surgery in April and will miss the season.
— Blaze Jordan, the team’s 2020 third-round pick, opened the year in extended spring training in order to focus on his defensive development at third base.