As some fans of the Dodgers are still sorting out their thoughts over the exodus of Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp and Alex Wood, many are focusing on the salary dumps while overlooking the quality of prospects that Los Angeles received in return. Jeter Downs and Josiah Gray are not your typical blue-chip, superstar prospects, but at the same time, both have the tools to make a big league impacts sooner than many think.
Downs could be the real steal of the deal. First and foremost, he’s a right-handed hitting infielder who can comfortably handle the duties at both shortstop and second base. And, although his big league ETA is definitely a few years down the road, he may be the answer to the problem of the Dodgers seeking out a bonafide, righty hitting second baseman every single winter in the free agent and trade markets.
As you may have suspected, Downs is named after legendary shortstop Derek Jeter. He was chosen by the Reds as a supplementary pick—32nd overall—in the 2017 draft.
Born in Colombia, the 20-year-old Miami resident has always been applauded for his quickness, speed, and range on defense, but many pundits question his ability to productively handle the bat—especially in the power department—to the degree that it could prevent him from finding success in the majors. However, although his first full year in professional ball was not overwhelmingly eye-opening in terms of hitting, his overall numbers weren’t bad in the least.
In the months following the draft, Downs put in his time in the Pioneer Rookie League, but in 2018 he settled into his role with the Low-A Dayton Dragons of the Midwest League. There, he slashed .257/.351/.402 with 23 doubles, 13 long balls and 37 stolen bases over 120 games, hitting primarily out of the three-hole. More impressively, he tallied 52 walks, which boosted his OBP to almost 100 points more than his actual average.
Interestingly, Downs hits southpaws much better than right-handed pitching. He had 121 plate appearances against lefties last year, hitting .310/.425/.440 against them with 17 walks and just 13 strikeouts. That’s a 14% walk rate to go along with an 11% strikeout rate.
Defensively, he played 73 games at the keystone and 43 at shortstop last season in Dayton. In terms of fielding, he committed half as many errors at second, 7, than he did at short, 14.
Many scouts believe that his future is at second base because of his size. His arm is adequate at short, but by no means does he possess the superior arm strength of somebody like Francisco Lindor, Manny Machado or Corey Seager. Because of his speed and quickness, some pundits feel that he could even make a career in center field, which correlates with the defensive philosophies of Friedman.
His coaches in high school and on the Cincy farm have always praised his attitude, work ethic and presence on the diamond.
In the moments after the trade became official, MLB Pipeline inserted Downs into the No. 7 spot in the Dodgers prospect rankings.
His estimated major league ETA is 2021.