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2020 Twins Transactions

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Twins Daily 2020 Top Prospects: #7 Ryan Jeffers

Ryan Jeffers epitomizes the depth of Minnesota's system. To have a player of this caliber – a two-way standout at catcher who's done nothing but perform as a pro, reaching Double-A within two years of being drafted – ranked seventh?!

Well, it's much more a credit to the guys above him than a knock on Jeffers, who beams with promise at a premium position.
Image courtesy of Seth Stohs (Graphic by Brock Beauchamp)
Position: C
Age: 22 (DOB: 6/3/1997)
2019 Stats (A+/AA): 414 PA, .264/.341/.421, 14 HR, 49 RBI
ETA: 2021
2019 Ranking: 13

National Top 100 Rankings
BA: NA | MLB: NA | ATH: NA | BP: NA

What's To Like

The bat. It was considered his primary strength coming out of college in 2018, when the Twins selected him in the second round. The North Carolina native put up spectacular offensive numbers in three years at UNC Wilmington, culminating with .315/.460/.635, 16 homers, and 51 walks in 62 games his junior year.

With numbers like that, as a catcher, you might ask why Jeffers fell to 59th overall and signed below slot, after ranking even farther back on most pre-draft projections. In short, there were some serious doubts about his slugging prowess translating away from aluminum bats, and his defense remaining viable behind home plate.

The Twins evidently were none too bothered by such concerns, and their faith has since been rewarded. Two months after the draft, Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press wrote that Jeffers was laying quick claim to Twins 'catcher of the future.'

"Yeah, I was swinging a different bat, but baseball is baseball," Jeffers said at the time, fresh off an aggressive promotion to Cedar Rapids after dominating Elizabethton. "I didn’t change too much.” Nor did the numbers.

He finished with a .344/.444/.502 slash line between two levels, and found himself at Fort Myers to open the 2019 campaign. In the pitcher-friendly Florida State League, he wasn't quite as potent (.732 OPS and 10 homers in 79 games) but still impressed enough to earn a late-July promotion to Double-A, where he enjoyed an unforgettable first day and finished with an .856 OPS in 27 games.



It's the defense, though, that has really begun to separate Jeffers. After the 2018 season, Dan Hayes of The Athletic wrote about Minnesota's efforts to refine his receiving chops, and how aptly the malleable student was taking to it. One year later, Hayes wrote in our Offseason Handbook that Jeffers' pitch-framing skills were deemed by some folks within the organization to be "among the top 15 in pro ball right now."



MLB Pipeline recently named him the best defensive prospect in the Twins system, noting that Jeffers has shed his offense-first rep and "improved by leaps and bounds, with an above-average arm to go along with outstanding receiving and blocking skills."

What's Left to Work On

He's just got to keep proving it. Jeffers hasn't yet gained steam on national lists because, while his performance has been impeccable, it's not out of the ordinary for a premier college talent storming the lower levels of the minors.

Catcher, in particular, is a position where the difficulty level rises sharply with each rung of the ladder. Jeffers is clearly coming along nicely but he'll really be tested once he reaches Triple-A and especially the majors. One area for improvement is controlling the run game; at Rochester last year, opponents stole 63 bases in his 74 starts at a 74% success rate.

At 6-foot-4 and 230 lbs., Jeffers is a bit of a lumbering fellow who doesn't spring quickly from the crouch, and also doesn't move too well, which greatly limits his defensive options in the event catching doesn't work out. Luckily, there's no reason to believe that'll be the case.

What's Next

Jeffers is among the Twins' non-roster spring training invites, reporting with the rest of the pitchers and catchers this week. The team has (intentionally, I suspect) preserved flexibility at catcher by signing Alex Avila to a one-year deal, so the door is open for Jeffers to join Mitch Garver in the majors after 2020 if can make his case.

Speaking of the current Twins starting backstop, it was noted in the aforementioned Berardino profile that Jeffers was drawing "a lot of internal comparisons" to Garver, who at the time was just finding his way as a solid yet unspectacular rookie in the majors.

“I’ve heard that and I take it as a compliment,” Jeffers said then. “I’m trying to get to where Mitch has gotten.”

He's about to have his chance.

Twins Daily 2020 Top 20 Prospects
Honorable Mentions
20. Jose Miranda, 3B/2B
19. Cole Sands, RHP
18. Travis Blankenhorn, 2B/LF
17. Misael Urbina, OF
16. Edwar Colina, RP
15. Matt Canterino, RHP
14. Matt Wallner, OF
13. Wander Javier, SS
12. Gilberto Celestino, OF
11. Lewis Thorpe, LHP
10. Blayne Enlow, RHP
9. Brent Rooker, OF
8. Keoni Cavaco, SS
7. Ryan Jeffers, C
Check back tomorrow for #6!

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25 Comments

Great! Catchers are so ephemeral...

High floor and I can't even see the ceiling....

 

This is what happens when hard work and intelligence meet innate talent...

 

Good on him!

    • DocBauer, JoshDungan1 and RaymondLuxuryYacht like this
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operation mindcrime
Feb 10 2020 11:26 PM
Thank God we drafted this guy!!!!!

"In the hitter-friendly Florida State League,"......

 

Never heard it called that. Perhaps an opposite day?

    • Nick Nelson, Mike Sixel, adorduan and 3 others like this
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Doctor Gast
Feb 11 2020 06:50 AM

I remember when people started to talk about trade deal sturrounding the need of an impact pitching. Jeffers name came up & I rebuked them,they came back with we don`t need him we have Garver. Yes we need impact pitching but we need to trade with where have an abundance not where we could lack. We must always need to eye the future, we need him as a future catcher & shortly back up. We don`t have an abundance of great catching prospects. He`s worth holding onto!

    • mikelink45, jrod23 and Heiny like this
Jeffers really excites me. And not as a Garver replacement. But as an addition to Garver to maintain having the strongest and best catching duo in baseball.
    • h2oface, mikelink45, MMMordabito and 1 other like this
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BrianBuchanan
Feb 11 2020 08:01 AM

Maybe I'm crazy, but it seems more likely to me that Rortvedt is the backup catcher in 2021 and beyond, and Jeffers gets shipped out as a major piece in a trade this summer.Hope I'm wrong!

Our Rankings:

 

Seth: 7

Nick: 5

Tom: 10

Cody: 8

 

I think Jeffers is legit... I'd have him higher now.

    • mikelink45 likes this

I remember not that long ago saying this was a stupid pick by the Twins. Ahh feels so good to eat crow, He has done really well since the moment they brought him in. The bat is for real and with the improved defense he looks legit.

 

I am still a big Rortvedt fan.He was close to breaking through last year with the bat and then got injured and seemed to tapper off.Rortvedt's defense seems outstanding to me.If the bat picks up he'll be right there with Jeffers. 

 

Not much for catchers behind them so maybe they pick someone up in the draft?Probably not with the lost picks and this being a pitchers draft.Still nice to have two young and very talented Catchers in the org though.

    • DocBauer and rdehring like this

 

Jeffers really excites me. And not as a Garver replacement. But as an addition to Garver to maintain having the strongest and best catching duo in baseball.

 

Absolutely... They're both plus people and plus hitters, and improving defensively... Would make for a pretty potent position in the Twins lineup. 

    • DocBauer, JoshDungan1 and Dakota Diver like this

I have been really excited by this prospect.At catcher, hitting like he does I am curious what names are ahead of him - I suspect the usual Kiriloff, Lewis, Larnach, Balazovic, but I cannot imagine who else would rate above him.I am with Nick at 5, and because catcher is so important and hard to get maybe 4.Since Rortvedt is not listed yet - is he above Jeffers?Not for me. 

 

This has been a great list and so far few disagreements - this is just a mild one.Wander Javier would not be top 20 for me, and Blayne Enlow and Rooker above Thorpe?I hope not.Unless Thorpe has reached the peak and is now in free fall. 

I am happy that Jeffers has made these improvements, yet, scratching my head when I see him at #7 and Rortvedt not in your top 20.

 

Was not Rortvedt the first promoted from A to AA last spring?Is not Rortvedt the better defensive catcher insofar as throwing out runners and controlling the running game?Is not Rortvedt the superior catcher as far as blocking the ball in the dirt?Although he doesn't have Jeffers power, wasn't Rortvedt hiting very well prior to his knee injury?

 

Not saying that Jeffers hasn't improved more than any Twin in his draft class.Just find it puzzling that he is #7 and Rortvedt is nowhere to be seen.  

 

The one thing I keep seeing is everyone raving about his pitch framing.I know that is the current in thing for rating catchers defense these days.Well, that is going to go away when big league baseball goes to robo umps in a few years and framing will add zero value.Perhaps then we can get back to rating catchers on values of the past, blocking balls, throwing out runners and handling their pitchers.

    • Dman likes this

 

I am happy that Jeffers has made these improvements, yet, scratching my head when I see him at #7 and Rortvedt not in your top 20.

 

Was not Rortvedt the first promoted from A to AA last spring?Is not Rortvedt the better defensive catcher insofar as throwing out runners and controlling the running game?Is not Rortvedt the superior catcher as far as blocking the ball in the dirt?Although he doesn't have Jeffers power, wasn't Rortvedt hiting very well prior to his knee injury?

 

Not saying that Jeffers hasn't improved more than any Twin in his draft class.Just find it puzzling that he is #7 and Rortvedt is nowhere to be seen.  

 

I've been one of the biggest Rortvedt boosters at Twins Daily, but even I have to admit that Jeffers has passed him on the prospect rankings at this point. And they did give Rortvedt an "honorable mention"; I'm guessing he probably clocks in somewhere around 22-25? Jeffers just looks like he has a significantly stronger hit tool at this point, and if his D has improved to near what the Twins staff is saying...he's on a great track for MLB. Rortvedt is a year younger, but he's also never hit like Jeffers.

    • DocBauer and JoshDungan1 like this
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Nick Nelson
Feb 11 2020 09:42 AM

 

I have been really excited by this prospect.At catcher, hitting like he does I am curious what names are ahead of him - I suspect the usual Kiriloff, Lewis, Larnach, Balazovic, but I cannot imagine who else would rate above him.I am with Nick at 5, and because catcher is so important and hard to get maybe 4.Since Rortvedt is not listed yet - is he above Jeffers?Not for me. 

Spoiler: Graterol will still be on our list, which started rolling out before the trade was announced. So that might help a bit with the math.

 

 

I've been one of the biggest Rortvedt boosters at Twins Daily, but even I have to admit that Jeffers has passed him on the prospect rankings at this point. And they did give Rortvedt an "honorable mention"; I'm guessing he probably clocks in somewhere around 22-25? 

Another spoiler: Rortvedt finished #21 in our rankings. So if you remove Graterol now that he's gone, BR is in the Top 20. 

    • Steve Lein, Dman, DocBauer and 2 others like this

I could be remembering this wrong, but didn't people question if Mauer was too tall to be a catcher at about the same height?

Spoiler: Graterol will still be on our list, which started rolling out before the trade was announced. So that might help a bit with the math.
 
 

Another spoiler: Rortvedt finished #21 in our rankings. So if you remove Graterol now that he's gone, BR is in the Top 20.


Not inconceivable we could soon have the "good problem" roster crunch at catcher like we will soon have in the OF.
    • rdehring and Diesel like this

 

Great! Catchers are so ephemeral...

2 points for using ephemeral

 

    • Heiny and Nebraska Nick like this

Not inconceivable we could soon have the "good problem" roster crunch at catcher like we will soon have in the OF.


I think we are already there. Cave and Gonzalez would be full time starters in a lot of places, Rooker is knocking at the door, and Kirilloff and Larnach should be AAA after a month or so of the season. And I didn’t even mention LaMonte Wade Jr.

 

2 points for using ephemeral

and 5 points if he had used 'short-lived'.

 

I am happy that Jeffers has made these improvements, yet, scratching my head when I see him at #7 and Rortvedt not in your top 20.

 

Was not Rortvedt the first promoted from A to AA last spring?Is not Rortvedt the better defensive catcher insofar as throwing out runners and controlling the running game?Is not Rortvedt the superior catcher as far as blocking the ball in the dirt?Although he doesn't have Jeffers power, wasn't Rortvedt hiting very well prior to his knee injury?

 

Not saying that Jeffers hasn't improved more than any Twin in his draft class.Just find it puzzling that he is #7 and Rortvedt is nowhere to be seen.  

 

The one thing I keep seeing is everyone raving about his pitch framing.I know that is the current in thing for rating catchers defense these days.Well, that is going to go away when big league baseball goes to robo umps in a few years and framing will add zero value.Perhaps then we can get back to rating catchers on values of the past, blocking balls, throwing out runners and handling their pitchers.

 

Roger,

I definitely am a fan of Rortvedt, and I love the Wisconsin love for Rortvedt. 

But from a prospect status standpoint, the two aren't particularly close. I think Rortvedt will play in the big leagues, and could play for ten years. Jeffers could be an All Star. I had Jeffers 7 and Rortvedt 30, and I feel pretty good about that. And also, that continues to speak volumes about the Twins depth in the minor leagues when a guy I think can be a long-term big leaguer ranks #30. In many organizations, Rortvedt is easily top 20. Jeffers is probably Top 5 in a majority of organizations. 

It's all about whether he will function effectively as a catcher in the major leagues. Highly questionable according to many reports when he was drafted. If that's trending favorably, and significantly so...which it seems to be doing...that would be huge.

Are both Rortvedt and Jeffers going to split time at AA to start the season? You could have Tomas Telis Graterol and The turtle at AAA. A lot of catching at the top minor league ranks.

Love that the appreciation for Jeffer's game and work ethic are coming through.I do like Rortvedt, but I agree completely with Seth.Jeffer's game has such a higher ceiling than Ben's.

 

 

The one thing I keep seeing is everyone raving about his pitch framing.I know that is the current in thing for rating catchers defense these days.Well, that is going to go away when big league baseball goes to robo umps in a few years and framing will add zero value.Perhaps then we can get back to rating catchers on values of the past, blocking balls, throwing out runners and handling their pitchers.

 

...however.This?What rdehring states?This scares me.Don't know how I haven't looked at it from this perspective yet.How lazy are our catchers going to get with no one on base?It's going to be gross how they accept a ball.Will past balls increase or decrease?Not liking that aspect of "robo umps".

 

Spoiler: Graterol will still be on our list, which started rolling out before the trade was announced. So that might help a bit with the math.

 

 

Another spoiler: Rortvedt finished #21 in our rankings. So if you remove Graterol now that he's gone, BR is in the Top 20. 

 

Ha! I was close.

Personally I have no idea what people are talking about with his defense.I have actually watched him play several times and he is not a good defensive catcher.He is a huge guy and he lacks mobility behind the plate and his footwork was not very good on his throws to second even in between innings just throwing down.He hasa powerful arm but it lacked accuracy.

 

Maybe when they are talking about his defense they consider the running game to be so devalued now in professional baseball that these attributes do not matter to them.Maybe he has improved so much in his short time after he left Ft. Myers that these claims are true.

 

But, personally, I think they are exaggerated. If he comes to the major league level as a somewhat below average catcher that would be what should be expected.If you are expecting a catcher that is average or above average defensively you will be disappointed. 

 

On edit: I do also think that his hit/power tool will be sufficient enough if he continues to develop that he can play catcher at MLB level even though he is a below average defensive catcher.


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