In what will likely go down as a salary dump in the media, the Dodgers did well to land two players that will slot into their Top 30 prospects for the 2019 season. The headliner is Jeter Downs, who like his namesake plays shortstop but could profile up the middle in a number of roles. Downs was my 22nd rated player in the 2017 draft, and his lofty status certainly hasn’t diminished in pro ball. Downs is an excellent athlete who had some rough edges to polish to his glovework out of high school, but he had enough arm to handle the left side of the infield.
Downs’ value comes in his bat, where the compact swing and excellent approach give him the potential to be an impact bat at a middle of the field position. Downs has decent loft on his swing and looks to lift and drive pitches more than the typical smallish middle infielder. His body isn’t extremely projectable, but he can add strength and incorporate his core more to generate more pop down the road.
Downs has already cleared the Midwest League hurdle and could be poised for an offensive breakout in the California League. He will slot behind Gavin Lux in the infield prospect pecking order, but Downs is a promising prospect in his own right that could develop into an early order hitter with the versatility to handle the middle infield and outfield.
Josiah Gray was a 2018 draft pick for Cincinnati who ranked 92nd in my draft rankings. He’s relatively new to pitching and has the typical drop and drive mechanic style of an infield convert. Gray’s value comes in his live arm that features plus acceleration and an action he’s proven repeatable thus far. Gray’s best pitch is his slider that features tight spin and 11-5 tilt that he can command in the zone. He pitches off his fastball in the low 90’s that looks like it has more ride than sink, and also bears out in his flyball heavy batted ball profile. Gray does show a promising change up on film, but his two primary pitches will carry him and might make him a better candidate for a future relief role.
Gray will likely head to Great Lakes in 2019 but could move fairly quickly. He’s likely to stay in his starting role, but given his lower ¾ slot and two pitch mix, Gray has the upside of a punchout relief specialist. He has upside as a mound convert, so any jump in velocity or stuff could up his profile considerably. Given the middling results of the Dodgers’ 2018 draft class thus far, Gray is like adding an arm with some impact potential to that class.
The Dodgers did well to grab upside profile prospects in shedding hefty salaries. Neither player likely will play a critical role for the 2019 Dodgers, but certainly beefed up the depth of a system in need of players with their potential.