Baseball

Monsignor Pace shortstop Jeter Downs is first South Florida player selected in MLB Draft

M.J. Melendez (from left), Jeter Downs, Alex Toral, Mark Vientos, Joe Perez.
M.J. Melendez (from left), Jeter Downs, Alex Toral, Mark Vientos, Joe Perez.

A quarter-century later, there is another Jeter in the MLB Draft.

In 1992, shortstop Derek Jeter was drafted sixth overall by the New York Yankees, and that was the start of an incredible career. Late Monday night, the Cincinnati Reds drafted their own shortstop named Jeter.

He’s Jeter Downs, a senior from Monsignor Pace who was selected with the 32nd pick of the draft. The Reds can only dream that this selection proves to be anywhere near as successful as that “other” Jeter.

“I’m so happy,” said Downs, who was up until 4 a.m. on Tuesday, mostly answering congratulatory texts and calls. “[The Reds] told me I will play shortstop, which is great. I had so many doubters, people telling me I would be switched to second base or third.

“Now I get to focus on playing shortstop and getting better.”

With an approximated value of $2.1 million for his draft slot, Downs is expected to pass on a Miami Hurricanes career.

Downs was not the highest-rated Miami-Dade or Broward player entering the draft. But by the time the proceedings ended Monday, he stood on top as the first South Floridian selected.

In fact, some players who were ranked fairly high were not selected through 10 rounds — financial terms might have been an issue — and the likelihood increases that they will go to college.

That lists includes UM recruits such as Archbishop McCarthy’s Alex Toral, a lefty-hitting first baseman with power who could be an immediate starter; and right-handers Daniel Federman and Chris McMahon.

FIU has at least three top recruits who have yet to be picked: left-hander Logan Allen, right-hander Christian Santana of American Heritage and outfielder Andres Santana of Doral.

Among players with South Florida ties who have been selected, three of them were drafted on consecutive second-round picks.

North Carolina State third baseman Joe Dunand, who played his high school ball at Gulliver, was picked No. 51 by the Marlins.

Westminster Christian catcher MJ Melendez, an FIU recruit, was selected at No. 52 by the Royals.

Joe Perez, a right-handed pitcher from Archbishop McCarthy who hit 99 mph on the radar gun earlier this year, was taken No. 53 by the Astros, who will use him as a third baseman.

Perez, a Hurricanes recruit, was drafted late Monday night and had elbow surgery on Tuesday morning.

“[The Astros] are not worried at all,” said Perez, who added that the surgery had been planned for weeks. “I will start a throwing and hitting program in about four months, and I will be ready to go by next spring.”

Mark Vientos, who played shortstop at American Heritage, was taken No. 59 by the Mets. Vientos, a Hurricanes recruit, will be converted to third base by the Mets, who like his 6-4 frame.

Vientos has been compared to another former South Florida prep star, Manny Machado, who is 6-3 and has converted from a prep shortstop to a superstar third baseman in the majors.

The slot-value for Dunand, Melendez, Perez and Vientos ranges from $1.3 million to $1.1 million. It’s a good bet all of them will sign pro contracts.

On Tuesday, center fielder Michael Gigliotti, who won a state title at Archbishop McCarthy and played Division I ball at Lipscomb, was selected in the fourth round by the Royals.

Right-hander James Marinan, another Hurricanes recruit, was taken in the fourth round, No. 130 by the Dodgers. The slot-value for this pick is $400,000, so perhaps there is a chanced Marinan will play for the Canes.

Two former FIU players were selected in the early rounds. Right-hander Nate Pearson, who had a 2.76 as an FIU set-up reliever in 2016, was a first-rounder, No. 28 overall, by the Toronto Blue Jays. His velocity spiked to 100 mph after leaving FIU.

Garrett Cave, who played two years at FIU, was a fourth-round pick, No. 126, by the Giants. He played for Division II Tampa University this past season, and his fastball touches 98 mph.

The final 30 rounds of the draft will take place Wednesday. Hurricanes players such as center fielder Carl Chester and left-hander Mike Mediavilla are expected to be selected. The same is true for FIU players, such as catcher JC Escarra and shortstop Irving Lopez.

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