Dodgers Prospect Watch: Jeter Downs Still Gaining Ground

downs
(Steve Saenz/Rancho Cucamonga Quakes)

Prior to the 2018 campaign, shortstop has been a position that the Dodgers didn’t worry too much about, specifically in terms of stability at the MLB level and depth on the farm.

Corey Seager had a stronghold on the big league spot while players like Enrique Hernandez and Chris Taylor having the skills to provide cover when needed. Gavin Lux held the top spot on the farm for a few seasons and was rising more quickly than any other prospect in the system.

However, both the 2018 and 2019 seasons certainly raised questions. Seager was hampered by numerous injuries, leading many folks to begin discussing a potential trade or even a shift to third base. Lux has proven that he can compete at the big league level, as many pundits believe he can be the organization’s shortstop or second baseman of the future.

Nevertheless, chatter has already started about making some big personnel changes this winter, primarily among the infielders. Anthony Rendon is at the forefront of the discussions, despite the fact it would take a huge paycheck to sign the 29-year-old MVP candidate. Third baseman Justin Turner even told reporters that he wouldn’t object to shifting across the diamond to first base, so long as it would make the club more competitive over the long haul.

What’s more, the Dodgers have already been linked to rumors surrounding a potential trade for Cleveland shortstop Francisco Lindor, prompting the whispers about either moving Seager to third or shipping him to the Indians in the return deal.

Despite all that, the front office crew of the Dodgers could elect to keep the main core of the team intact, especially when it comes to the position player group. There’s a player who’s ranked among the Top 5 prospects in the system, 21-year-old Jeter Downs, whose production could be a big part of that reasoning.

Obviously, Downs isn’t MLB-ready at the moment, but it wouldn’t be foolish to think a 2021 ETA is realistic. Conceivably, even without any big-named free agents signings, the Dodgers could be looking at an infield of Seager, Downs, Lux and Max Muncy for many years down the road, assuming that Seager stays healthy and eventually makes the transition to third.

For those unfamiliar with Downs, it was he and newly crowned Minor League Pitcher of the Year Josiah Gray the Dodgers gained when they shipped out Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, Alex Wood and Kyle Farmer to the Reds back in 2018.

First and foremost, Downs is a right-handed hitter who can comfortably handle the duties at both shortstop and second base, just like Lux. And, he could 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, especially if either Hernandez or Taylor are shipped out in a trade package.

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. While many scouts have questioned his ability to productively handle the bat—especially in the power department—Downs has certainly opened some eyes in that regard over the last two seasons.

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.

Defensively, he played 73 games at the keystone and 43 at shortstop last season in Dayton in 2018. In terms of fielding, he committed half as many errors at second, seven, than he did at short, 14.

During his first year in the Dodgers system, he hit .277/.362/.526 with an impressive 35 doubles, 24 homers and 86 RBI over 119 games. Most of those appearances were with High-A Rancho, but he was promoted to Double-A Tulsa in time to see action in 12 contests.

Last season in the field, he made 102 appearances and short and just 11 at the keystone.

Many scouts believe that his future is at second base because of his 5-foot-11, 185-lb. frame. His arm is adequate at short, but by no means does he possess the superior arm strength of somebody like Seager, Lindor or Manny Machado. 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.

At the moment, it looks like Downs should see plenty of action in the Tulsa infield to open the 2020 season, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him promoted to Triple-A Oklahoma City if he handles the Texas League pitching as well as he did in the Cal League.

 

34 thoughts on “Dodgers Prospect Watch: Jeter Downs Still Gaining Ground

  1. Can we please back off of Seager he is there everyday and does a very good job.
    He will be 100% healthy next year let’s see how he delivers

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    1. I agree. I was just trying to emulate what the general feel of the baseball world is right now. Consequently, I think Seager’s performance in the NLDS has ignited much of this conjecture. Couldn’t have been a worse time to get cool with the bat. Some players have reputations of not being able to deliver in the postseason—let’s hope that doesn’t become the case with Seager.

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    2. No one was talking about trading Seager until his performance in the playoffs. He looked overly thin to me all year and I think the best thing he could do for himself this winter is to bulk up a little.
      Then, as Keith mentioned, the Lindor rumors started which leads to Seager as well. I’m a huge Lindor fan but he’s going to cost a heavy load of prospects and/or players. We already have Seager. Unless AF finds a way to move around a lot of players and come out with a better team than he started with, I think the odds are we don’t get Lindor. On the other hand, if we could put Lindor in our lineup, keep Seager and move Lux or Muncy to left field on an every day basis, that would be nice. Then Joc and Pollock aren’t necessary any longer.

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      1. I’m on a run here, so how about this:
        The money left on Pollock’s contract plus buyout is almost identical to Cueto’s, although spread over an additional year. Anybody willing to take a chance on Cueto? Giants could certainly use Pollock.
        That would be one way to move Pollock’s contract for those who are so inclined. Cueto would be a huge risk but a major potential upside. A real roll of the dice.

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  2. A lot of fans were pretty angry with AF for making that trade last off season. It’s amazing how highly ranked Downs, and Gray are, after just one season since the trade.
    Personally, I had never heard of either one of them before the deal.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I understand what you’re saying Larry, but the rumor is out there about the Dodgers interest in Lindor, so it naturally brings up questions about his future. We didn’t start it, the team did.

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  4. Passan thinks Rendon signs with LA – 5 years, $200 million.

    Downs really improved in 1 year. Would you use him in a Lindor trade?

    Something big definitely could happen. It also definitely couldn’t.

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      1. If you take his 3 year splits, (27-29) those 3 years being the last 3 of what most models show being prime years, it’s closer to $8 million per WAR. Let’s not forget, ‘ 19 was a contract year. It was the best year of his career. Can those numbers be trusted? He’s 30 next June. Can he continue 6+ WAR until he’s 34? If the rumors are true, Friedman believes so.

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    1. I have not seen that. It would be unprecedented for AF to go against the norm. I still believe if they upgrade the offense in any way, it will be by a trade.

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  5. A couple other things could factor into the lets trade Corey move. First, Seager has not really embraced the Von Scoyoc school of hitting. Many were pissed that he did not see more pitches per at bat than he did. He is a notorious 1st ball hitter, and seemed overly aggressive during the playoffs, and was swinging at some pretty bad pitches. Secondly, he has resisted the call for him to move to third and open the SS job for another. Not that Corey is a team cancer or anything like that, but he is a little like Kersh with that bull hardheadedness of his.

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    1. I have NO problem swinging at the first pitch. He did it 88 times in ‘19. OPSd .999 with that pitch. After 0-1 count, meaning he looked at strike one, he OPSd .688. Swing away Corey.

      I’m a firm believer in first ball fastball (Dead Red) hitting. I did it and I taught it. If you get a “get me over” cookie on the first pitch you have to be ready for it. It’s the best pitch you will get in the sequence so put it in play.

      I’ve been thinking about this trade Corey business. Unless it’s a blockbuster for a 5+ WAR player in his prime, which is what Corey is by the way, I wouldn’t do it. I don’t see Cleveland wanting him in a straight up Lindor trade. They will ask for a top prospect with him. Lindor is a perennial All Star that plays everyday. Seager has been hurt 2 years running. I’m not sure what Friedman has in mind, but I’m gonna assume Seager is healthy and a middle of the order Seager, Rendon, Bellinger, Turner is most intriguing. If we can sign Rendon early (not likely) a free agent pitcher or two might be interested in joining the party.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. None of it came up in September when Corey was crushing the ball. He led the team in RBI’s in September, and he and Pollock were on fire. They just happened to both go into a slump at exactly the wrong time, and Bellinger, who was very pedestrian the second half, tanked too, and the team lost. Seager is a solid player, I believe all this Lindor talk is worthless, because trading for him is going to weaken the team somewhere else. The need pitching. Good pitching. There now is a rumor going around that Ryu is dead set on coming back to LA and would probably give a home town discount.

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  6. 2020 projections are out:

    https://www.fangraphs.com/projections.aspx?pos=3b&stats=bat&type=steamer&team=0&lg=all&players=0

    Don’t know those can be trusted. Kershaw projects over 200 innings. Hope so, but I doubt it. Wheeler projects 190, with an ERA over 4. Kyle Gibson anyone? Keuchel? Odorizzi?

    Rendon and Seager on the left side would look pretty not too bad. If Turner moves to first his fielding numbers might actually improve. Hard to know really, but he had negative numbers at third this year, ending with a -0.6 dWAR. Wish we knew what the plan was. Might be a couple months before we do. There’s an old saying… “want to make the baseball gods laugh? Tell them your plans.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Friedman is notoriously close mouthed about what he has planned. That the Lindor thing even surfaced is amazing. He was talking out of the side of his mouth at the end of year presser. So how can anyone know what he is thinking? He more than anyone should know where the holes are, and amazingly, they are the same frippen holes they were last year. I think, and I honestly believe, that expecting Friedman to make a huge free agent splash is unrealistic. I have no problem with them moving JT to first. I have no problem with moving Seager to 3rd and installing the kid at SS. Muncy is more than serviceable at second, and you have a set infield. The more they play together the better they are. I think Pollock will be fine. A large part of his problem last year was the elbow. Once that healed, he was a different player. He and Seager carried the team in September, and he and Turner were the only 2 Dodgers who had 3 HR games last year. Even Bellinger did not do that. With the OF depth the Dodgers have, they can trade players and it won’t hurt a bit. You still have Beatty, and you have Rios for LH depth, Peters will most likely start at AAA, and he is RH pop. Verdugo should be healthy. They are loaded with middle infielders, and then there are the utility guys. So, where is the need???? Clearly the pitching has to get better for this team to be considered a championship contender. So Andy, go get some frippen arms….some really good ones this time, not some old corn flakes.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well said Bear. Some of these guys throw a rock in the water just see if the ripples reach shore. The more I think about an infield with Muncy at second the more ok I am with it. I think if he knows what his position is every day the better he will be at it. Put him there exclusive starting now and he will improve. A .900 OPS second baseman? Hell yes. He only has to be league average defensively to help this team win. Lux is a natural shortstop and a good one. That said, if Cleveland is moving Lindor early I would listen. And I’ll answer my own 11:16 question, yes I would. Cleveland would want a stud replacement for the future and we have one. Maybe they’d like a 3 WAR .876 OPS outfielder too.

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  7. A few days ago Larry asked here if anyone knew how Verdugo’s back was doing. His brother is fairly active on social media and tweeted that his back is now 100% and he’ll be starting his winter workouts pretty soon.
    That’s excellent news. Now he just needs to make sure he doesn’t re-injure his back while working out.

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      1. Speaking of health issues, did you see where the Dodgers have put Tyler White on a program to deal with a thyroid problem he has. He’s already lost quite a bit of weight. Didn’t realize that he’s still on the 40 man roster but they obviously saw something they liked when they got him last year. He is a right handed bat and a hell of a lot cheaper than Rendon. Now I’m just going to sit back and wait for Bear’s comment that bringing White back instead of signing Rendon is exactly the kind of move he’s expecting from AF this winter. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Jeff for the info on Verdugo. I say put him in the leadoff position and leave him there against left or right handers and watch him shine

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      1. I’m down with that plan Larry. He projects an OBP of .342 and an OPS of .794. I think he can maybe even do a little better. .350/.800.

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      2. I still don’t get the fascination with hitting Joc leadoff. I think I pleaded my case against that several times here. In the same breath, I think Verdugo could do quite well considering his contact skills and his ability to spray the ball to all fields. There aren’t many players who can do that these days. If Lux can improve his own contact and bat control, I think he could fit well atop the lineup, too.

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