Why Ryan Jeffers is the Most Important Minnesota Twins Player in 2022

Minnesota Twins catcher Ryan Jeffers celebrates his home run in the third inning against the Detroit Tigers. (Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports)
Minnesota Twins catcher Ryan Jeffers celebrates his home run in the third inning against the Detroit Tigers. (Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports) /

The post-lockout offseason got underway last week, and since that time, the Minnesota Twins have been one of the most active teams in all of baseball. Their active trading style has resulted in the team’s roster significantly shifting and one position has shifted significantly more than the rest: catcher.

At the start of the offseason, the Twins’ catching room was quite solid. Mitch Garver, Ryan Jeffers, and Ben Rortvedt were a firm three players atop the depth chart, allowing the fans to feel confident about the position heading into the lockout.

Now, less than a week after the lockout has ended, the Twins’ positional group is seemingly solidified, but in a vastly different way. With Mitch Garver in Texas and Ben Rortvedt in New York, the Twins behind the plate are now, and officially a one man program: The Ryan Jeffers Show.

The Minnesota Twins have made it clear: Ryan Jeffers is the man behind the dish.

Sure, the Twins have other options. Gary Sanchez was brought in as a part of the trade that sent out Rortvedt. Caleb Hamilton and David Banuelos are the top options in Triple-AAA. All three aren’t really good options behind the plate, as Sanchez’s defense is simply not good, while Hamilton and Banuelos struggled at Triple-AAA, let alone how they might fare in the bigs.

The Twins could make a free agent signing or a trade, but there either aren’t many top flight catchers available or the Twins shouldn’t give up the assets. The best options available are Jeffers and Sanchez.

Here’s the thing though: the Twins’ plan is for Sanchez to serve as a designated hitter and a backup catcher, a role that’s far more suited for his ability than as a primary catcher. This leaves Ryan Jeffers.

Here’s the thing. 2022 is going to be a big year for Jeffers. Following a 26 game debut where Jeffers looked like the future at the position and a potential stud in 2020, he looked lost in 2021, slashing .199/.270/.401. He struck out too much and his defense took a step back as well, leading to fans questioning what 2022 would look like.

It now looks like it’s truly a prove it year for Jeffers. I wrote before the lockout that Jeffers was one of four Twins with something to prove this season, but now that that Garver is gone and he’s the No. 1 guy with almost no competition around him, he becomes the most important player on the team.

If Jeffers steps up this year and plays like he did over that span in 2020, he could easily cement himself as a Top 10 catcher. With legitimate 20 homer power, good on-base skills, strong defense, he can be everything the Twins envisioned when they drafted him 59th overall in 2018. And it won’t just help himself.

Jeffers was in the 90th percentile for pitch framing in 2020 and regressed to 74th in 2021. Awful pitching played a role in that, but Jeffers wasn’t quite as good either. If he can step back up to his 2020 numbers, the young arms (Ryan, Ober, and the incoming prospects) will benefit greatly and the team will get a big boost.

If he remains at his 2021 level, the Twins’ pitchers will struggle a little more and the team will be forced to lean on Gary Sanchez and career minor leaguers in order to make it through the year. If that happens, the team is toast.

Putting this much pressure on a 24-year-old isn’t ideal, but it’s the situation the Minnesota Twins have now put themselves in. Ryan Jeffers may just be the most important member of the Minnesota Twins in 2022.

Next. Minnesota Twins: Breaking Down and Grading the Sonny Gray Trade. dark