Let’s begin by addressing the elephant in the room with Downs. Since he was originally drafted number thirty-two overall by the Cincinnati Reds in 2017 he’s been traded not once but twice. The first trade came six months after being selected by Cincy when they sent the Colombian to the Dodgers as part of a package in return for Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp, among others. A little over a year after that, Los Angeles had Downs and others shipping up to Boston in exchange for Mookie Betts and David Price. Being dealt multiple times before seeing any major league action usually raises some red flags. But let’s look at the return the teams received for Downs. In 2018 Yasiel Puig had come down from his much hyped first two seasons but was still an effect player, batting .267/.327/.494 with twenty-three home runs in one hundred twenty-five games. Matt Kemp was an All-Star. In 2019, when Downs was traded again, the Red Sox sent over Mookie Betts, one of, if not the single, best players in the league right now. What I’m trying to say is the returns for Downs have not been minimal. There’s a reason the Dodgers and Red Sox were so willing to accept Downs in return for such high level major league talent. That reason is because those teams believe Downs will be high level major league talent. That talent was evident when the Monsignor Edward Pace High School alum advanced to Double-A within two seasons of being drafted. While he only played twelve games for the Tulsa Drillers in 2019, Downs managed to collect sixteen hits and five home runs at the higher level. That success at the plate is due to his ability to hit to all parts of the field and his quick bat speed, which allows him to identify pitches well and be aggressive in his selection. Downs’ plate presence will get him onto the field at Fenway but it most likely won’t be as a shortstop. He lacks the range for the position so he will probably be moved to second. The new position shouldn’t be too difficult to handle thanks to the twenty-two year old’s high baseball IQ. If it wasn’t for COVID, it would be more likely that Downs would see more major league time this season but since his Red Sox introduction was at their alternate site the organization will probably want more time to work with him on the lower levels. He did receive a non-roster invite for spring training this year and should begin the season with the Triple-A Worcester Red Sox. Depending how quickly he’s able to acclimate to the Red Sox system Downs could make a late season appearance in 2021. By 2022, he could be a regular.
Now that Downs has found an organization willing to fully embrace him, collectors are willing to do the same. Before being assigned to the BoSox alternate site in July 2020, the average price of Jeter Deion Downs’ raw, base first Bowman Chrome autograph card was $39.93. Downs made his presence known in Pawtucket and as a result his card value gradually rose to the $68.03 it stands at today. Not only is the value of Downs’ 2017 Bowman Draft autograph increasing but collectors’ interest is as well. Total sales numbers increased every month of the offseason, which is rare for a card that has been out for four years now. Part of what could be driving sales is Downs attachment to Mookie Betts. Boston was largely derided for sending off one of the best players in the game but once some of the outcry died down people began to look at what the Sox got in return. While Jeter Downs might not be Mookie Betts, he is a solid return. For card collectors, it’s usually safe to bet on Boston’s farm system. The Sox have a history of being able to reload well after disappointing years. It appears they’re in the middle of that process right now and Downs is a key piece of it. Being able to anchor the middle infield for one of Major League Baseball’s premier franchises will draw lots of attention to the prep draft pick which should ensure a strong market. I believe Downs first Bowman autograph is still rising and will continue to do so during the season. He’ll have plenty of eyes on him when he makes his MLB debut and if his bat is able to translate in the bigs his card will be one of the hottest of the season. If you haven’t added Jeter Downs to your collection yet, you may want to consider doing it soon. It might be much harder this time next year.