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Are the Minnesota Twins Setting Up Ryan Jeffers to Fail?


After an impressive rookie debut in 2020, Ryan Jeffers has had a slow start to the 2021 campaign. Is Jeffers experiencing a sophomore slump, or are the Minnesota Twins setting up Ryan Jeffers to fail?Ryan Jeffers burst onto the scene with the Minnesota Twins after getting called up in August of last season to fill in for an injured Mitch Garver. In 26 games in 2020, Jeffers posted an OPS of .791, demonstrating hard-hit ability as well as patience at the plate. Jeffers was equally impressive behind the plate, where he quickly became a defensive savant, ending the season in the 90th percentile in all of baseball in pitch framing.

 

Through the first handful of games in the 2021 campaign, Ryan Jeffers has had a quiet start at the plate. Through the first two weeks of the season, Jeffers has collected just four hits and is slugging a mere .190. Of course, these numbers come from a minuscule sample size of just 19 plate appearances and, while no true conclusions can be gained from these numbers, the usage plan for Rocco Baldelli’s catchers has been made crystal clear — one day on, one day off, but Mitch Garver gets to hit against lefties.

 

Through the first 13 games of the 2021 season, the Minnesota Twins have faced four left-handed starting pitchers, and Mitch Garver has gotten the start in all four of those games. The reasoning for this is obvious, Mitch Garver destroys left-handed pitching. In the 2019 season, Garver posted a 1.170 OPS against southpaws, absolutely destroying every left handed pitcher he saw.

 

The adverse effect that this is causing, though, is that it is leaving Ryan Jeffers in the position where he is strictly facing right-handed pitching in every game in which he appears. While Jeffers has been successful against righties up to this point in his career, nearly every baseball player is going to struggle more against same-handed pitchers than if they had a platoon advantage.

 

Additionally, Mitch Garver simply hasn’t been that same hitter, even against lefties, since the 2019 season came to an end. Since the beginning of 2020, Garver has posted a .761 OPS against southpaws. While we have already seen what Garver’s ceiling against lefties has been, just how much leash can he have while not exactly destroying the ball, especially when it is coming at the expense of Ryan Jeffers getting advantageous batting matchups?

 

When the Minnesota Twins made the decision to move from the traditional righty/lefty catchers split in favor of their two right handed mashers, the question of how the playing time would be divided was a big one. In the early going the Twins have clearly made that decision and it has resulted in Ryan Jeffers getting 4x the number of his plate appearances against righties rather than lefties. If Mitch Garver can get back to his mashing ways against lefties, the decision will pay off, but if he continues his marginal hitting against the opposite handed pitchers, Rocco Baldelli will need to adapt quickly and adjust his catching plan. Garver is 30-years-old and hasn’t looked impressive at the plate in 18 months, while Ryan Jeffers is 23-years-old and slated to be the catcher of the future for the Twins for the next 6+ seasons.

 

It might be time to start setting up Ryan Jeffers to succeed.

 

What has been your impression of the Minnesota Twins catching split to start the season? Do you think that Ryan Jeffers has been set up to fail? Leave a comment below and start the conversation!

 

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Garver against lefties and Jeffers against righties hasn’t worked...switch it up. The catching platoon has been hot garbage offensively thus far (and not good defensively either, still pissed about Jeffers dropping that foul tip). Does Jeffers succeed vs. lefties? You might as well try, it’s not like it would hurt anything if you didn’t.

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Jeffers is still young and in a normal year you might say keep him at AAA for another season. But as a second to Garver, he will be able to catch at least 50+ games this season, if not more, and he will learn on the job, Catching is a tough position, and many catchers don't have to show complete skill sets if they can handle the duties behind the plate. I have faith that Jeffers will be a solid catcher for seasons to come.

 

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Jeffers bypassed AAA so yes there are going to be frustrating ABs for him in the bigs, but he's looked good defensively and every AB he gets with the Twins now is incredible important for his development. If he wasn't getting much playing time I would say the Twins were setting him up for failure, but he's getting plenty of ABs, so he's just gotta roll with the punches and learn from every game. 

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Jeffers is the future he will get his opportunity.  The priority right now to get Garver going and figure out what you have in him.  If he hits like 2019 its complicated, if he just returns to a good hitter he has re established trade value, if he continues to struggle Jeffers becomes the priority. 

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We have a few options when a player underwhelms: blame the people who put him on the roster, blame the person who does or doesn’t put him in the lineup, blame the player himself, or accept that succeeding in the Majors is extremely difficult.

 

At the end of the day the players have to do their job. Jeffers warrants some patience because of his age and talent, but it’s ultimately on him to reach his potential. This isn’t a video game where players have numerical ratings that automatically determine the quality of their play.

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Jeffers has a patient at bat approach.  Last year, he succeeded on that approach especially with 2 strikes. He is doing the same this year and I wouldn't say he is guessing at the plate.  Last year he didn't miss on the one pitch per at bat that he felt he could do something with.  Not perfect but rarely missed.  This year his approach really hasn't changed but his one pitch to drive he is fouling off or just missing in the zone.  I like him behind the plate. It comes down to Rocco analytics of who plays when and where depending on matchup.  Garver has history vs Lefties but that is two years ago.  Hell you look at the lineup and take 3 guys out (Arraez, Cruz, Buxton) and the rest of the team is hitting about .230 or less.  So we are about 2 weeks in and it's a marathon.  What I'm more concerned about it the BP than I am the hitters at the moment.

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Jeffers bypassed AAA so yes there are going to be frustrating ABs for him in the bigs, but he's looked good defensively and every AB he gets with the Twins now is incredible important for his development. If he wasn't getting much playing time I would say the Twins were setting him up for failure, but he's getting plenty of ABs, so he's just gotta roll with the punches and learn from every game. 

 

I am with you here.  While the righty, righty matchups are not advantageous to Jeffers batting line he is gaining valuable experience. It is not like he is never going to have to face right handed pitching.  Perhaps working on a weakness early will produce more favorable results in the end.

 

While the main point of this article has merit I think it is over the top to suggest the Twins are setting Jeffers up to fail.  If by fail you mean us box score watchers aren't going to see the stats we want then I get it.  The Twins know what position they are putting him in so the stats don't matter as much to them.  They obviously don't want a black hole bat there but just how much better was a guy like Jason Castro?  I'd wager not much better and they stuck with his "veteran" bat for three years.

 

The kid has barely been in the Majors I think he needs more time likely a full season to get the hang of things and see where he is at.  For right now any MLB at bat is a good at bat for Jeffers.  There can be a painful learning curve but he is smart and talented enough to succeed in the end IMO.

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Jeffers bypassed AAA so yes there are going to be frustrating ABs for him in the bigs, but he's looked good defensively and every AB he gets with the Twins now is incredible important for his development. If he wasn't getting much playing time I would say the Twins were setting him up for failure, but he's getting plenty of ABs, so he's just gotta roll with the punches and learn from every game. 

 

100% this. I wouldn't surprised to see him sent to St Paul once they begin AAA games to gain more experience that way. That probably depends if Garver can figure it out.

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Given the way the Twins handle almost all of their young and upcoming players Jeffers is lucky to be playing at the majors in any capacity at this point in his career.

 

This is an old and tired stereotype of the Ryan era Twins that no longer holds water, and actually stopped holding water towards the end of the Ryan era anyways.  See below for a list of current/former Twins, and the age at which they debuted.

 

Sano--22

Polanco-22 (technically 20, but his first significant stint came when he was 22)

Arraez--22

Rosario--23

Kepler--23

Buxton--21

Berrios--22

 

Players who do well in the minors get pushed to the majors quickly.  There is no similarly long list of players who were tearing up AA/AAA at 21/22/23, and yet didn't make the majors until 25.

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Maybe a solution would be to have Garver play some first base with Jeffers behind the plate and K-Sano on the bench once in a while. Maybe if Garver AND Jeffers got a few more at bats on a regular basis they would both start to hit again. Sitting Sano might actually help the lineup. Blocko Dumbelli wants a different lineup everyday anyway and Sano looks like he needs to rest.

 

We should definitely sit the guy with a .599 OPS despite a .176 babip in order to get more PA's for the guy with a .451 OPS despite a .444 babip.

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It is still way too early.  I am fairly certain that over the course of the season Jeffers will get his fair share of ABs vs. lefties.   While I hope for real production out of the catcher position this year, I am much more interested in how our two catchers are calling games and getting called strikes for their pitchers.  It may be a coincidence, but the two most dominant performances of the season - Berrios' start vs. the Brewers and Pineda's performance vs. Red Sox -  have come with Jeffers behind the plate.  

 

I think the determining factor of who will get the lion's share of ABs this season will depend on Garver's and Jeffers' defense, not their offense. 

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Jeffers has been a pro only since 2018, but every season up to now he has displayed a reverse-platoon split, hitting righties better than lefties, both in the minors and in his brief 2020 callup. It's not crazy to treat him for lineup purposes as a lefty batter, until he proves otherwise.

 

This year it's more of a normal direction for the split, but his numbers are just so ridiculously bad against righties that that is more the story than the split itself. Only 4 PA against lefties which is not anything to draw a comparison to - if his one hit had been guided just a little differently for an out his OPS would be worse than against righties, and you never want to draw conclusions where one plate appearance changes everything.

 

Hopefully it's merely a slump that he'll work himself out of - either that, or the opposing teams have rewritten their book and him and he needs to respond accordingly.

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Lot of patience here for a 6-7 team struggling offensively and expected to compete for a pennant. In general probably the right attitude but I’m not sure it needs to apply to Jeffers.

 

Many here want Sano out of the lineup. Sano’s K’ing at a 34.6% rate and walking at over 23%. Jeffers 52.2% and 8.7%. He’s been overmatched. It’s a small sample, but it’s not unreasonable that a team in the Twins position might want to get him ever-day at-bats (C/1B/DH) in AAA for a bit.

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