Image credit: Minnesota Twins
It doesn’t sound physically possible, but catcher Ryan Jeffers is using one knee to climb a ladder.
Jeffers, a 2018 second-round pick from UNC Wilmington, climbed all the way up to Double-A Pensacola before he had played 150 professional games.
The 22-year-old is one of the Twins’ top offensive prospects, with a career batting line of .296/.383/.453 as proof. His burgeoning power—14 home runs in 2019, 10 of them in the power-suppressing Florida State League—has Twins scouts picturing him as a future middle-of-the-order slugger.
“He absolutely possesses that sort of strength, that kind of sheer force with the bat,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “I wouldn’t be afraid to put him in the middle of things.”
That’s where Jeffers wants to be, too. As the 6-foot-4, 230-pound righthanded hitter’s offensive reputation has grown, so has his determination to remain behind the plate, even if it requires a greater physical toll.
“Catching for me is something I love and take pride in. I’ve never wanted to do anything but catch,” Jeffers said. “I have aspirations to do a lot of things in the game, not just at the plate but behind it. I’d like to win a Gold Glove back there—that’s my mindset.”
It could happen some day, thanks in part to his willingness to learn. Jeffers took the advice of former Twins catching instructor Tanner Swanson and ditched his squatting setup behind the plate for a one-knee-on-the-ground stance, with the other leg stretched out.
The new stance helps him get lower and frame pitches more effectively.
“It helps you get under the ball and control the zone better,” Jeffers said. “Once you get a handle on it, it feels really good. It’s taken my receiving game to another level. I couldn’t go back to catching the other way.”
The Twins don’t want him to go back to it, either.
“Everything about his defense is improving,” Baldelli said. “He’s athletic enough to make it work, to help pitchers out (with framing) while doing a good job of blocking low pitches. He’s an impressive young man.”