Downs was the 32nd overall pick from a Florida high school by the Reds in 2017, heading to the Dodgers in the off-season mega-deal that included Yasiel Puig, Alex Wood, and Matt Kemp. Named an all-star in the California League, he’s enjoying a power spike in the hitter-friendly circuit. Downs has upped his ISO by nearly 80 points and has almost matched his home run total from all of last year in the first half of 2019.
An athletic 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds, the 20-year-old looks the part in the middle infield. Despite easy actions and soft hands at shortstop, he’s an iffy bet to stick at the position and scouts are split on his long-term defensive home. Downs will boost his chances at a significant big league role by proving capable at the 6, though he’ll need to improve his range to all sides and get more comfortable going back on popups. With an arm that’s more average than plus, there’s a chance Downs winds up at 2B long term. At the plate, he brings good power to the table for an infielder with a contact profile that bodes well for future home run outputs. Downs is putting more than 50-percent of his balls in play in the air for the second consecutive season, giving hope his power surge isn’t just a California League mirage. He appeared more focused on driving the ball than making contact or reaching base in my four-game look, with a consistent hole covering the outer-third of the plate—especially on off-speed. Though he certainly hits with a presence in the batter’s box, Downs’ low motor on the offensive side of the ball has concerned scouts this season.
With defensive improvements at shortstop—or if he can become a solid-average hit/power producer, no matter where he plays—Downs’ ceiling is an everyday big leaguer in the middle infield. Downs will only turn 21-years-old in July, so there’s plenty of time to dream on some improvements across the board. The fairly high likelihood he stays at a center-diamond position, coupled with his ability to drive the ball, can make him a solid role player even if he falls short of his FV 50 upside.