Twins’ Ryan Jeffers currently among league’s top hitters: “I feel like this is who I am”

Ryan Jeffers had a rare day off on Sunday, a chance to sit back while his teammates took care of business against the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Twins'[ catcher is not used to playing this much – the Twins typically employ a 50-50 split behind the plate – but these days, he’s made it nearly impossible to take his bat out of the lineup. If he’s not catching, it’s likely he’s still in the lineup as the designated hitter. Of the Twins’ 40 games, Jeffers has appeared in 35 of them.

That’s what happens when you’re the league leader in OPS.

“You want to make it hard for the manager and you want to be in the lineup,” Jeffers said. “I still take so much pride in being a catcher, being a catcher first, but the offensive stats are such a good icing on the cake.”

Forget just among catchers – Jeffers flat out has been one of the best hitters in the majors this season, entering Monday hitting .292 with a .371 on-base and .617 slugging percentage.

His .988 OPS is third in the majors entering Monday and first in the American League. His slugging percentage is also third in the majors and first in the AL. Names like Shohei Ohtani and Mookie Betts are some of those near him in those categories.

His nine home runs and 30 RBIs pace the Twins and he’s well on track to smash his career highs of 14 and 43, respectively.

“He’s always had an ability with the bat, but he’s really taken it to the next level the last couple of seasons,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “He’s got a good swing. He sees the ball pretty good, all these different things. But to have it all come together in this way is really impressive.”

It’s the product of a lot of hard work after a down 2022 season at the plate. Jeffers went to work that offseason, completely revamping his swing.

Halfway through the year, he still wasn’t totally comfortable with how everything felt mechanically, yet he still finished the season hitting .276 with a .858 OPS as he came into his own as a hitter.

And now?

“A lot of it is, now I’m very comfortable and really understand what I’m good at hitting,” Jeffers said. “I’ve got the no stride, I’ve got the toe tap. I’ve got different tools in the toolbox.”

Notably, Jeffers has cut down on his strikeout percentage this season, dropping it from 27.8% last year to 19.3% so far this season.

That, he said, is in part because he’s more comfortable and confident in his swing mechanics now.

“I don’t feel nervous to get to two strikes,” he said, “I feel like I can battle with the best of them with two strikes. … I think it’s just a confidence when I get to two strikes.”

Baldelli called him “one of the better adjustment-making hitters in the league,” praising both his approach and the way he’s able to get to different pitches.

“He’s got a plan for pretty much everything, and he can execute the plan. He just can do it,” Baldelli said. “It doesn’t work like that, even with a lot of good hitters. It doesn’t work like that. It’s come together reasonably quickly, and everyone watching – me, the staff and his teammates, too – people are, like, pretty impressed with what they’re seeing.”

And while those around him are plenty impressed, to Jeffers, this is a matter of him becoming the hitter he always knew he could be.

Now, it’s a matter of sustaining it.

“I don’t feel like it’s a fluke. I feel like this is who I am,” Jeffers said. “I’ve always stayed very committed to the fact that I believe in myself, I believe in the player that I can be but to have the results and the confidence coming now, it feels great.”

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