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Twins Daily 2021 Top Prospects: #4 C Ryan Jeffers


Back in 2018, many draft experts thought the Twins were reaching to grab Ryan Jeffers in the middle of the second round. Now it’s looking like Minnesota will have the last laugh as Jeffers is looking more and more like the team’s catcher of the future.Position: C

Age: 23 (DOB: 6-3-1997)

2020 Stats (MLB): 62 PA, .273/.355/.436, 3 HR, 7 RBI

ETA: 2021

2020 Ranking: 5

2019 Ranking: 13

 

National Top 100 Rankings

BA: 60 |MLB: NR | ATH: NR |BP: NR

 

What’s To Like

Defense is the name of the game for any prospect that plays an up-the-middle defensive position and Jeffers showed his tremendous defensive value last season. He only caught 162 big-league innings, but he ranked seventh in baseball when it comes to strike rate, which puts him into elite company.

 

According to Baseball Savant, he ranked in the 90th percentile when it came to framing pitches last year. Twins pitchers must love pitching to him, because his smooth receiving skills gain extra strikes for pitchers and help them to get into favorable counts. For two straight offseasons, MLB.com has named Jeffers as the organizations best defensive prospect.

 

Offensively, Jeffers combines plate discipline and a powerful swing that has improved over the last three seasons. Throughout the minors, he posted a 18.5% strikeout rate, but that number jumped to over 30% in his initial big-league run last year. Historically, his walk rate was 10.2% in the minors and he posted a 8.1 BB% in 2020. Expect both of those numbers to improve in 2021 as he gets more experience seeing MLB pitching.

 

Jeffers just missed Baseball Prospectus’ Top-101 list as he was the second to last player removed. ESPN thinks highly of Jeffers as Kiley McDaniel has him ranked higher than any other national ranking (57th). FanGraphs also has Jeffers in their top-60 prospects as they said, “A physical beast with a power over hit offensive profile, Jeffers has the talent to be an everyday catcher but needs to improve his ability to control the running game.”

 

What’s Left To Work On

His defense has improved so much throughout his professional career, but there are other areas he can improve. Like FanGraphs wrote, his arm might not be as strong as a team would like from their everyday catcher. Jeffers has continued to work on quickening his release and that continues to help him improve his caught stealing percentage.

 

Last year, base runners were successful in 14 of 16 potential chances, which put Jeffers at 13% below the league average in CS%. Another thing to consider is that MLB might be moving toward electronic strike zones and that could also negatively impact his long-term value.

 

If his defensive value changes, Jeffers needs to continue to produce at the plate. His hit tool is average, which is why last year’s offensive numbers were a pleasant surprise. Some scouting reports have his breaking ball recognition and plate coverage as slightly below average. He posted a .364 BABIP last season and many projections have that total regressing in 2021. Jeffers is going to have to prove that 2020 wasn’t a fluke and that he can continue to make adjustments at baseball’s highest level.

 

What’s Next

Jeffers is projected to split catching duties with Mitch Garver throughout the 2021 season. Rocco Baldelli loves to rotate his catchers on a regular basis, so Jeffers should be getting 3-4 starts per week. He will be playing at the big-league level from season’s start, so it will be intriguing to watch his chances at bringing home AL Rookie of the Year honors. He’d need to put up some impressive offensive totals and teammate Alex Kirilloff might have something to say about the award before things are said and done.

 

Does Jeffers have a shot of AL Rookie of the Year honors? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

 

Twins Daily 2021 Top 20 Prospects

Honorable Mentions

20. Bailey Ober, RHP

19. Jose Miranda, INF

18. Alerick Soularie, OF

17. Ben Rortvedt, C

16. Edwar Colina, RHP

15. Cole Sands, RHP

14. Misael Urbina, OF

13. Matt Wallner, OF

12. Brent Rooker, OF/1B

11. Gilberto Celestino, OF

10. Blayne Enlow, RHP

9. Matt Canterino, RHP

8. Aaron Sabato, 1B

7. Keoni Cavaco, SS

6. Jordan Balazovic, RHP

5. Jhoan Duran, RHP

4. Ryan Jeffers, C

 

Stop by tomorrow for prospect #3!

 

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I was one who fell in with the draft experts and thought the Twins were crazy to pick him in that spot.  It looked like there was a chance to get him in the 4th round but hard to say if he would have lasted that long or not.  Not having that 3rd round pick that year seemed to force them to take him higher than they might have wanted.  So far it looks like that was a good decision.  Strange but that 2018 draft without their supplemental and third round pick is shaping up to be a good one with Larnach, Jeffers, Sands and Winder at the top end and Willie Joe Garry, Auston Schulfer, Zach Neff, LaRon Smith Regi Grace and Charles Mack still in the running to make a difference.

 

I don't really know what to say about Jeffers that hasn't been said and after he burned me last time I am not that interested in doubting him again.

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What a savvy draft pick (and '18 draft for that matter).  I loved seeing Jeffers perform in Elizabethton and Cedar Rapids to start his career.  He didn't slow down.  He only ramped up with each level.  I loved his Hot Stove interview when talking about being a physics major, "...I've always been smart."  Haaaaa, he left out confident.  He is very confident, and it works for him.  You want that behind the plate.  His work ethic is fantastic.  Another plus, is how many innings he's logged with our pitching prospects.  That'll definitely ease their transition when they make it up.

 

The only knock I have (it's not even a knock really) is why is his pitch framing said to be so good?  When you watch him, you can see him pulling the ball into the zone quite easily.  I'm an amateur umpire, and I'm FAAAAARRRRRR from perfect, but one thing you definitely notice is pushing and pulling of the pitches by the catcher.  One thing I'm consistently astonished by are MLB umpires and their ability to call the zone correctly at such a high percentage.  Long story longer, no way are MLB umpires unaware of his manipulation of the zone.

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You don't need analytics to tell you Jeffers is solid behind the plate....the eye ball test is sufficient.  Since he and Garver will split duties, I'm very comfortable with his offense.  The throwing should improve with MLB coaching.  He seems to on an upward arc both offensively and defensively.

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I know just enough about catching to be dangerous, but I have always maintained the most important part of the job was communication with the pitching staff, and just having the pitchers comfortable working with and throwing to their backstop. Think Suzuki when he was with the Twins. He didn't do anything special, but you always heard how the pitchers liked throwing to him.

 

I think Jeffers has that "confidence" within himself and seems to invite that confidence. For the record I think Garver has grown tremendously in that area as well. The throwing portion of the position is nice, but the actual run game in MLB has largely disappeared. You still want a decent, accurate arm back there, but the best defense is still to not let those guys that do run get on base.

 

I was immensely impressed watching Jeffers last year, especially considering he was not only jumping a level but wasn't even playing ball on a normal daily basis when he made his appearance. I don't know how good he could be, but he looks like a real keeper. I believe he will be a fine offensive player all the way around but am uncertain as to his ceiling. My only concern is SSS at this point and how does his offense play over a full season. Even if he shows some struggles...not saying he will...but it shouldn't dampen expectations for his future success.

 

I will be disappointed if the Twins don't have the best 1-2 punch behind the plate in MLB for the next few years.

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