Who is Jeter Downs, the newest Yankees infielder known for ties to Derek Jeter?

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Michael Bennington
Wednesday December 20, 2023

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The Yankees secured infielder Jeter Downs through a waiver claim from the Nationals on December 19, 2023. A former top prospect and first-round pick shares two notable connections with Hall of Famer Derek Jeter.

As the 32nd overall pick by Cincinnati in the 2017 amateur draft, Jeter Downs not only carries the name of the Yankees legend but also commenced his career at shortstop, emulating the famed MLB player in that position. The Yankees move presents a significant opportunity for him to don the iconic pinstripes, akin to his namesake Derek Jeter.

At 25, Jeter Downs was once a prominent figure in the Red Sox farm system, acquired by Boston as part of the Mookie Betts blockbuster trade with the Dodgers. The Yankees, by claiming him off waivers and acquiring outfielder Alex Verdugo during the Winter Meetings, have now brought two of the three players that Los Angeles sent to Boston in the Betts deal. The sole player remaining with the Red Sox from that trade is catcher Connor Wong.

Once touted as a Top 100 prospect, Jeter Downs has faced challenges since then, resulting in his second designation for assignment in his career last week.

Originally selected in the first round of the 2017 draft by the Reds, Jeter Downs made his MLB debut with the Red Sox in 2022, registering a .154 batting average with a .427 OPS in 14 games. During the last season, he played six games for the Nationals, securing a 2-for-5 performance with two steals.

With versatility in playing shortstop, second base, and third base, Jeter Downs, standing at 5 feet 11 inches (1.80 m) and weighing 195 pounds (88 kg), still retains one minor league option. This provides an opportunity for him to offer the Yankees additional depth. He is known for his right-handed batting and throwing style.

Who is Jeter Downs

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Born on July 27, 1998, in San Andres, Colombia, Jeter Downs has a baseball lineage as his father, Jerry Sr., previously played professionally in Colombia. Seeking enhanced baseball prospects for both him and his brother, Jerry Jr., the family relocated to Miami, Florida.

Jeter Downs pursued his education at Monsignor Edward Pace High School in Miami Gardens, Florida, where he actively participated as a shortstop in the school’s baseball team. He made a commitment to attend the University of Miami, securing a college baseball scholarship.

The 32nd overall pick in the 2017 MLB draft, Jeter Downs was chosen by the Cincinnati Reds, securing a $1.825 million signing bonus upon joining the team. Commencing his professional career, he was assigned to the Billings Mustangs in the Rookie-level Pioneer League, where he showcased his skills in his debut season, recording a .267 batting average with six home runs and 29 RBIs across 50 games.

Transitioning to the 2018 season, Jeter Downs played for the Dayton Dragons in the Class A Midwest League, registering a .257 batting average along with 13 home runs, 47 RBIs, and an impressive 37 stolen bases in 120 games.

In a significant move on December 21, 2018, Jeter Downs became part of a trade that sent him from the Reds to the Los Angeles Dodgers, along with Homer Bailey and Josiah Gray, in exchange for Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig, Alex Wood, Kyle Farmer, and cash considerations. His 2019 season kicked off with the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, where he not only earned a spot in the mid-season California League all-star game but also secured a place in the post-season league all-star team.

Playing in 107 games for Rancho Cucamonga, Jeter Downs compiled a .269 batting average with 19 homers and 75 RBIs. Subsequently, the Dodgers promoted him to the Double-A Tulsa Drillers of the Texas League on August 20, 2019, where he exhibited his prowess with a .333 batting average in 12 games, contributing five home runs and 11 RBIs.

With Boston Red Sox and MLB debut

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AP

On February 10, 2020, the Dodgers orchestrated a trade involving Jeter Downs, Alex Verdugo, and Connor Wong, sending them to the Boston Red Sox in return for Mookie Betts, David Price, and cash considerations. Unfortunately, he did not see any playing time in 2020 due to the cancellation of the minor league season. Despite this, Jeter Downs earned recognition from Baseball America, being ranked as the Red Sox’s second-best prospect after the 2020 season.

The onset of the 2021 season had Jeter Downs starting in Triple-A with the Worcester Red Sox. In May, he joined the roster of the Colombia national baseball team for the Americas Qualifying Event for the Olympics. Additionally, Downs was selected to participate in the mid-season All-Star Futures Game, contributing with a 1-for-2 performance and driving in two runs with a double. Across 99 games with Worcester, Jeter Downs posted a .190 batting average, accompanied by 14 home runs and 39 RBIs. Following the regular season, the shortstop continued his play in the Arizona Fall League. In preparation for the Rule 5 draft, the Red Sox included Downs on their 40-man roster on November 19.

In the initial stages of the 2022 season, Jeter Downs commenced his play with Worcester. Despite a modest batting average of .180 in 53 games for Worcester, he earned a spot on Boston’s major-league active roster on June 20. Just two nights after this promotion, Jeter Downs made his MLB debut, taking on the role of third base and going 0-for-4 at the plate in a game against the Detroit Tigers at Fenway Park.

The following day, Jeter Downs was optioned back to Triple-A. However, he received a recall to Boston on July 9 when Christian Arroyo landed on the injured list. On that particular evening, he not only secured his first MLB hit and RBI but also scored the decisive run in the bottom of the 10th inning against the New York Yankees. Adding to his achievements, the shortstop hit his inaugural major league home run on July 17 at Yankee Stadium. Downs returned to Worcester on July 30 when Arroyo rejoined the team. Across 14 games for the 2022 Red Sox, he posted a .154 batting average with one home run and four RBIs. In the Triple-A league with Worcester, Jeter Downs participated in 81 games, batting .197 with 16 home runs and 33 RBIs.

On December 15, 2022, Jeter Downs got a designation for assignment by the Red Sox.

In Washington with Nationals

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Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post

On December 22, 2022, the Washington Nationals secured the rights to Jeter Downs through the waiver process. At the outset of the 2023 season, he was sent down to the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings. During his brief stint with Washington, he participated in only six games, achieving a .400 batting average (2-for-5) with one RBI, two stolen bases, and four walks. Unfortunately, on December 12, Jeter Downs faced a designation for assignment by the Nationals.

The Derek Jeter connection

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Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Upon joining the Red Sox following the Betts trade in 2020, Jeter Downs elucidated his link to Derek Jeter.

Jeter Downs shared that his mother admired Derek Jeter and admired his style of play and character, which led her to give him the name Jeter. He expressed his idolization of the Yankees legend, citing his approach to the game, his conduct both on and off the field, and the universal respect he garnered from all teams. Jeter Downs reflected on the profound impact of witnessing a player like Derek Jeter during his childhood, highlighting that regardless of one’s team affiliation, it was simply remarkable to watch someone of Derek Jeter’s caliber play the game.

Prior to making his debut in the major leagues on June 22, 2022, Jeter Downs received a pregame congratulatory tweet from Derek Jeter, who had encountered his namesake a few years before.

The legendary Yankee extended congratulations and wished good luck, with a playful remark attached, specifying, “Unless you find yourself facing the Yankees.”

Born three years after Derek Jeter’s entry into the major leagues, Jeter Downs has shared that his mother named him after Jeter, despite his father being a Red Sox fan. He grew up supporting the Yankees, and in February 2020, the infielder recounted his initial encounter of sorts with the longtime Yankees captain.

Jeter Downs was driving to a training session with his brother. While stuck in traffic, his brother spotted a Range Rover and speculated if it was Derek Jeter. Reacting excitedly, his brother honked, and Jeter Downs waved at the vehicle. Later, during his’ training with Raul Ibañez, a former teammate of Derek Jeter, he informed him about the incident.

Ibanez then relayed the message to Derek Jeter, informing him that the individual he had waved at was Jeter Downs. A few days afterward, Jeter Downs mentioned that he engaged in a FaceTime conversation with Derek Jeter, facilitated by a mutual acquaintance present at a Marlins event held at a TopGolf venue.

Jeter Downs expressed that he had looked up to Derek Jeter for his entire life. Meeting and conversing with the legend was a significant and special moment for Downs, marking the culmination of his admiration for the baseball icon.

Where does he fit for the Yankees?

Acquiring Jeter Downs through waivers and making a trade for outfielder Alex Verdugo during the Winter Meetings, the Yankees currently possess two out of the three players sent from Los Angeles to Boston in the Mookie Betts deal. The lone remaining player with the Red Sox is catcher Connor Wong.

During his initial experience in the major leagues, Jeter Downs produced notable moments involving the Yankees: he achieved his first career home run against Gerrit Cole at Yankee Stadium and scored the winning run on a walk-off single against the Yankees at Fenway Park, courtesy of Verdugo.

Following his acquisition by the Nationals, Jeter Downs had limited appearances in six games with Washington during the year, spending the majority of his summer in Triple-A for the third consecutive season. Subsequently, he recorded a .236 batting average with a .736 OPS in 51 games with Washington’s Triple-A affiliate in 2023.

Jeter Downs, versatile across shortstop, second base, and third base, retains a minor league option, providing the Yankees an opportunity to enhance their depth. On December 19, 2023, Downs was picked up by the New York Yankees through waivers. A month later, to accommodate Diego Castillo on the 40-man roster, he was marked for assignment. By January 24, after clearing waivers, he was outright assigned to the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.

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Standard Batting

YearTmGPAABRH2B3BHRRBISBCSBBSOBAOBPSLGOPSOPS+TBGDPHBPSHSFIBBPos
2022BOS144139461014001210.1540.1710.2560.427171000010/45H6D
2023WSN69542000120410.40.6670.41.067207200000/64H
GPAABRH2B3BHRRBISBCSBBSOBAOBPSLGOPSOPS+TBGDPHBPSHSFIBB
2 Yrs205044881015205220.1820.260.2730.533491200010
162 Game Avg.162405356656580840160401780.1820.260.2730.533499700080
Baseball Reference

Career Graph

Futures Games
2021
Baseball Reference

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