Contemplating a Potential Jeter Downs Move to Third Base

Jeter-Downs
(Matt Kartozian/USA TODAY Sports)

Long before the rumors began circulating about the Dodgers being interested in acquiring players like Anthony Rendon, Josh Donaldson and Kris Bryant, there were plenty of fans discussing what the team believed its long-term solution at third base to be, especially when considering that 2020 is the final year of veteran Justin Turner‘s contract.

For years, pundits have felt that Corey Seager would eventually make the transition to the hot corner, despite Los Angeles management still showing no signs of any type of move happening. Yet, because of the club’s continued interest in All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor, chatter was that Seager would either be included in the deal back to Cleveland or slide over to third, potentially creating perhaps one of the most formidable infields in the National League.

Obviously, Rendon landed with the Angels, and Donaldson’s demands for a lengthy deal are a little too salty for the Dodgers. Bryant’s market is complicated by the fact that he’s still waiting on a hearing decision regarding his ultimate free agent status, so there’s probably going to be a waiting period before rival organizations increase their respective interest. Besides, Bryant’s defense at third is much worse than the 35-year-old Turner’s. Bryant can theoretically play a bit of left field and first base, but the Dodgers are heavily stacked in those spots with players whose offensive skills are very much comparable to Bryant’s.

We talked a bit about Kody Hoese possibly being the third baseman of the future in the earlier weeks of the winter. Sure, there’s a good chance he could make a major league impact sometime down the road, but the time frame for that to happen is probably several years away. While there’s indeed the probability for front-office boss Andrew Friedman to wait to deal with the future third base vacancy at a later point in time, it almost goes against his proactive nature.

A few days ago, I was reading a chat on Baseball America regarding the Dodgers’ 2020 Top 10 prospects, and there was an interesting point made by Kyle Glaser about Jeter Downs sliding over to play third base, imaginably creating a quicker route to the big leagues for the 21-year-old youngster.

“The best position for Downs will be third base, which is probably where he’s best suited because he has an above-average arm but not quite the range you want in the middle infield,” Glaser pointed out. “That’s his clearest path to an everyday role in Los Angeles.”

The move makes a ton of sense, not just because of the big league squad’s impending vacancy at third base, but mainly because Down’s skillset might be better suited for a career there. Glaser indicated that Downs has a rocket for an arm, and because the youngster has limited range in the hole at short, the hot corner could be a much better fit. Some pundits have hypothesized that Downs could eventually make a full-time transition to second base—a spot he has appeared at 84 times during his minors career—but third makes much more sense considering the strength of his arm.

Glaser has always made many great insightful points in the past, unlike many journalists who try and rate prospects without ever having seeing them play, Glaser has encountered most of these youngsters close-up and firsthand. The more that I dig deeper into his claims made during the chat, the more his understanding makes sense.

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 PuigMatt KempAlex Wood and Kyle Farmer to the Reds back in 2018.

First and foremost, Downs is a 5-foot-11, 185-lb. right-handed hitter. He could be the answer to the problem of the Dodgers seeking out a bonafide, righty hitting infielder every single winter in the free agent and trade markets, especially if either Enrique Hernandez or Chris Taylor are shipped out in a trade package anytime soon.

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 Miami resident has always been applauded for his success on the basepaths. 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 at 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 at short and just 11 at the keystone.

It should be interesting to see how the Dodgers plan to move Downs around the infield this year, especially if the organization decides to extend him an invite to the big league side of spring training. If, for any reason, a trial at third base doesn’t work out, there’s certainly no harm in trying at this stage of his career.

One way or another, there’s a very good chance Downs will be contributing at the major league level at some point in 2021.

Currently, Baseball America has Downs listed as the sixth-best prospect in the Dodgers’ system.

 

23 thoughts on “Contemplating a Potential Jeter Downs Move to Third Base

  1. I thought we were trading for Suarez?

    Downs at third makes sense. Unless of course Hoese does. What about Busch? I’m confused.

    Ok, off for hash browns.

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  2. When you’re a Dodger fan, the possibilities are endless. Until I saw Glaser’s chat the other day, I had no idea that we would even consider moving Downs to third. As you say Dennis, he actually has baseball knowledge so when he states something as definitively as he did, you need to at least think about it. I still think he’s a valuable trade chip as well, so I guess we just wait and see how things play out.
    Hey Scoop, do me a favor, bring me back an order of those hash browns to go.

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    1. I think Downs will be in the best position to play there in 2021. I believe Hoese and Vargas might be good, but they are quite a few years away. I thought maybe the Dodgers would add Santana to the 40-man this winter to protect him from the Rule 5, but evidently they don’t value him that highly. Apparently, nobody else around the league does, either. Santana’s power numbers fell off the map last year.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Only Muncy, Pederson and Taylor left not signed yet. Belli, Strip, Kike, Seager all agreed to deals. Belli getting 11.5.

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      2. If they hit, we keep them.

        Who are the 2 best hitters among our minor league affiliates? Keep them.

        If they spin the ball IN the strike zone, they play.

        Who are the best 3 pitchers in in our minor league affiliates? Keep them and trade the others.

        If it’s me anybody still in A ball after their first three years is probably not big league. The best rise to the top and they do it quickly. If they are still under 20, maybe they could be the exception, but gifted hitters show their talents right away. College players already have a couple years of Low A exposure so they should handle A ball without much difficulty.

        I don’t know who the real hitters are. It doesn’t appear there is a Bellinger or Seager on the horizon. Ruiz and Downs appear to be next up. Ruiz is 20 and already at AAA. Vargas is 19. He’s big, and looks like he can hit but he’s years away. Hoese is 22. and OPSd .715 in A ball. Downs is 21 and OPSd .821 in A+. By comparison Seager was in the Majors and OPSd .986 as a 21 year old. Bellinger was an All Star at 21 and won an MVP as a 23 year old. You see where I’m going with this?

        I keep Lux and decide quickly who out of that other group is “can’t miss”, like there is such a thing, and the others I offer up for proven pieces that can help close this deal. I’m pretty sure that is exactly what ‘drew is trying to do.

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    1. Pico de gallo. Lots of it.

      Stripling or May?

      Dodgers depth chart at MLB.com has Nelson as our #5. Among 13 relievers is May at 6 and Stripling at 13. Strip gettin no respect. Steamer gives him 99 innings and 6 wins. May gets 149 innings and 10 wins Obviously he doesn’t get that as our #6 reliever. I kinda figured Urias, May, Stripling and maybe Ferguson would divvy up the 65 starts from 4-5 slots. IL back to 15 days and I see every starter getting a 2 week vacation at some point during the year. I see no 30 start starter in our group but I see a lot of guys who can start, obviously including Gonsolin and Ferguson. Looking around the West I see at least a one week cushion but if we want home field throughout we have to be careful with that.

      It’s going to be interesting. I’m looking forward to it. If for no other reason there will be more to watch than college basketball.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Betts got 27 million. Worth it to trade for 1 year of this guy? Unless Boston took some salary back, I do not see that trade happening.

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    1. Me either.

      On a side note, if Betts and 6.8 WAR is worth $27 million, what is Muncy worth? Hint: more than what he is asking.

      Here’s another side note: Betts put up 10.9 rWAR as a 25 year old. What are the odds he ever puts that up again? Hint: you do not want to put money on “he will”.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I also think there is another angle to consider about free agents. Considering the state of the government in Cali, If I was making a lot of money, I would rather play in a state where there is no state income tax, like Texas. With the way things are going in Cali, why would anyone want to play there? They used to have the same problem getting players to come play in Canada because they were getting double taxed. Betts is going to get a 9 figure at least 7 year contract after next season. He would be nothing more than a rental to the Dodgers because we all know from watching this ownership and this front office guru, that he does not hand out those kinds of contracts. Betts will go back to Boston, or be snatched up by some one else.

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  4. But bear that’s the salary elite players are getting now and more. Look at Machado and Harper last year who are no where as good as Betts and Rendon this year. If AF could get him at the deadline without giving up one of our top 3-4 prospects at half that salary he’d do it in a heartbeat.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, so would I. But we are talking about the trade they have been talking about for weeks. Betts-Price. That is 59 million in salary THIS YEAR. And the 64 million over the next 2 years for Price. Sorry dude. I am not blocking my kids for a close to over the hill former power pitcher, who may be an innings eater, but who’s ERA has been climbing for years. If we got the guy who totally shut down LA in the World Series I might think about it. And tell me, does Betts guarantee you a title? How is team chemistry affected when you bring in a player in July? Machado did not light up the room, and the pitching in the NL, as foreign as it was to him diminished his productivity. He went from being All Star worthy, to merely good. There is no guarantee he comes to the NL and lights it up. There have been far more cases of a player being traded at the deadline and falling on his face that of those who lit the other league up. Especially hitters. Pitchers have a slight advantage having never been seen in most cases by the opponents. Betts is a very good player. He would bring a lot to the table. I understand that. But if the cost of getting Betts is taking on the albatross salary of Price, sorry, I am not doing it.

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      1. I totally agree. No way I want Price but Betts would be big. If you want guarentees there aren’t any and then you wouldn’t do any deals but I’d take my chances with Betts for 9 mil and some non top 5 prospects at the deadline

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Like I said, so would I. But I am not breaking the bank for the guy next year. AF just doe’s not do those kinds of deals. Now the other question is do the Red Sox make him available at the dead line???? What if they are in the race??? I think there will be a lot of questions that will not be answered until July. If the Dodgers are struggling, they are more likely to trade. As was the case in 2018 when they traded for Machado.

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  5. And Scoop sometimes the college players are older and take some time to develop. Look at Alonzo this year he was 25. And Judge was also 25 when he won it and deGrom was 26. So we need to give Hoese and Busch and some of the college kids a couple of years to develop before we decide if they will be stars. But you made a good point. Stars usually rise quickly. And it doesn’t hurt to find some Turners ,Muncy’s and Taylor’ along the way!

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    1. I agree. There are late bloomers. Alonzo was 24. Judge was 25. How does one identify them? Iontkno. But there’s also the abundance of information that says both those guys will have spiked their production graph before 30. The goal here is to identify and claim stars on their way UP. I think the Dodgers as an organization are as on top of those analytic algorithms as any team in baseball. The analytics on analytics says you will not be correct 100% of the time. 9 out of 10 would be acceptable. That’s considerably better than the average umpire. Low bar?

      I do not want to pay Tuesday for today’s hamburger. Let the Yankees play that game. Who are the 3+ WAR players in our future? We need at least 10 of them on our 26 man every year. Last year we had 8. We can get better. 5 years out, who is our #2. Who is our keystone combo? Who’s the 35 home run Dodger 3rd baseman in 2022? Look ahead. What do you see?

      Ryu is gone. Replace him with Urias. I think May can get us 3 WAR. Lux can get us 3. Maybe Smith can too. Bullpen. Jansen working with Driveline technology. Treinen motivated. Nelson excited. Ferguson working on third pitch. Kelly…. ok, he’s who he has always been, we just have to ride the slides. Baez will be good. Kolorek and Alexander, definite maybes. Floor, Sadler, Gonsolin, Stripling, all good arms.

      We look good to me. 97 wins. Pick up a piece at the deadline. 99 wins. The view is clear from the drivers seat.

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      1. How many outliers can we find?

        Gavvy Cravath didn’t make it to the Majors until he was 27. Led the league in nine categories when he was 34. Maybe Jeren Kendall is him. Dazzy Vance didn’t really start down his HOF path until he was 31. I see a lot of him in Zach Lee. Al Leiter, Hoyt Wilhelm, Dennis Eckersley, Dave Stewart, Jayson Werth, Joe Nathan, Latroy Hawkins, heck, Rich Hill. Of course it’s a long list, and guys like that help bump the peak age to 28. But the graphs are there, and stats do not lie.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. This is an organization that plays the odds one pitch at a time. I don’t see them doing anymore contracts like we see still hanging around their necks. Heck, we’re still paying Scott Kazmir and Hector Olivera. 10 WAR during arbitration years. We need more of them.

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