“Jeter Downs” is probably the best pure baseball name in the 2017 MLB Draft. That said, Downs would interest major league clubs even if he was named “John Smith” due to his broad range of physical tools and improving skills. Let’s take a look.
Jeter Downs is a shortstop from Monsignor Pace high school in Miami, Florida. A showcase player as early as 2013, he has been renowned for his athleticism and defense and has taken steps forward offensively this spring.
Downs is committed to his hometown University of Miami Hurricanes for baseball. A year ago it looked likely that he’d head to college, but with his stock rising this spring the chances that he gets into pro ball are increasing.
Listed at 6-0, 180, Downs is a right-handed hitter and thrower born July 27th, 1998. He is a native of San Andres, an island in the Caribbean, but moved to Florida when he was a young child. And yes, he was named for Derek Jeter.
Downs has a perfect shortstop toolset, with above-average range at shortstop, a 55-60 arm, all combined with solid reliability and instincts for his age. He has a good chance to stick at the position. His running speed is above average (55 or 60 depending on the source) in pure timing terms but he is an effective and aggressive baserunner which helps the speed play up. He could steal 20 bases per year.
Offensively, he is a line drive hitter who has started to show more power this spring, enough to quell concerns that he needed to develop his bat in college. His makeup, work ethic, and presence on the field are all positives.
Power was the main question four months ago but scouts report an increase in bat speed and production from Downs this spring. There’s still some question about how this will all play at higher levels and of course like all young hitters we’ll have to see if he manages wood bats and pro pitching as well as he’s handled high school. We’ll also have to see if his plate discipline and OBP skills are good enough for him to be an ideal leadoff hitter.
He turns 19 in July, making him one of the older top high school prospects, although that’s hardly his fault.
Downs was viewed as a fourth or fifth round talent a year ago and someone who could end up in college. His stock has risen to around the second round now, with some chance he could get into the supplemental round. That would probably be enough to keep him from the Hurricanes, although only Downs and his advisors know for sure.