13 months ago, Ryan Jeffers was reporting to work every day with the Fort Myers Miracle of the High-A Florida State League. Even though he was already considered a highly touted catching prospect, having been selected a second-round pick by the Twins out of UNC Wilmington the previous year, it would have been reasonable to think Jeffers was at least a couple of years away from reaching the promised land of baseball.
Jeffers instead finds himself donning the red, white and navy blue much sooner than that after being called up from the Twins satellite training site in St. Paul on Aug. 19. Despite only playing 29 games above High-A (including playoffs), the young catcher is showing that he can hold his own against big-league pitching through his first weekend in The Show.
He was inserted into the starting lineup last Thursday for his major league debut against Milwaukee and immediately picked up two hits. It was not a bad first impression on manager Rocco Baldelli and the rest of the coaching staff. Jeffers started behind the plate in three of the first four games following his promotion, an indication he is going to see substantial playing time with primary catcher Mitch Garver on the 10-day injured list.
Power hitting catchers are always a sight for sore eyes, and Jeffers was beginning to morph into one in his brief minor league career. He hit seven long balls in 64 contests in the regular season between Elizabethton and Cedar Rapids after being drafted in 2018, before belting two more in the Kernels’ first playoff game at Beloit. In addition to his ability to leave the ballpark, Jeffers also tore up the Appalachian League. He slashed an incredible .422/.543/.578 in 28 games for Elizabethton with a 1.121 OPS, which was his first month as a professional.
Jeffers rode the momentum from a strong 2018 into his first full season, where he was a mid-season Florida State League All-Star with Fort Myers. He homered ten times and drove in 40 runs before a July 25 promotion to Double-A Pensacola. With the Blue Wahoos in a tight playoff race, Jeffers took his opportunity and ran with it, leading his team with a .289 batting average from the time of his promotion until the end of the regular season. He also caught the likes of Jorge Alcala and Brusdar Graterol in Pensacola, the former reunited with him as a teammate in Minnesota and the latter now a part of the Dodgers bullpen.
The Blue Wahoos ended up making the playoffs and faced Biloxi in the first round, a hard-fought series ultimately won by the Shuckers in the fifth and decisive game. Pensacola nearly rallied from a 2-0 series deficit to advance thanks in large part to the right-handed bat of Jeffers. He homered in both Game 4 and Game 5 while going a combined 5-for-9 in the two contests. Jeffers also showed impressive defensive prowess, not allowing a passed ball after his promotion to Pensacola.
Many teams in the Southern League have excellent MILB.tv feeds and Twins fans are lucky enough to see his progress with the Blue Wahoos last year courtesy of these highlights:
With this being a shortened major league season, managers and coaching staffs across the league are more likely to keep hot bats in the lineup on a consistent basis. Garver and backup catcher Alex Avila are hitting a combined .167 for the Twins through a month of play, so if Jeffers is able to swing it well, it is possible he could be rewarded with his name in the lineup on a close to daily basis.