It’s been eight years since the the Brewers made Jeremy Jeffress, then a slender 18 year old high school senior, the 16th pick in the 2006 MLB draft, five years since Baseball America named him as the 100th best prospect in baseball, and three and a half years since Milwaukee shipped him off to the Royals in the deal that brought them Zack Grienke. Now, a built, 26 year old, well travelled bust, Jeffress has returned to Wisconsin. The hard throwing right-hander has been promoted to the big leagues, the team announced in a press-release today.
In snippets of each big league season since 2010, Jeffress has been remarkably inconsistent. Last year, he had a dominant 10.1 inning stretch for the Royals, pitching to an 0.87 ERA and fanning 10.5 batters per nine. But other times, he has just been completely unable to find the strikezone. In 2012, he walked just under a batter per inning (8.8 BB/9), and was almost as bad in 2011 and in his brief stint with Toronoto this year. He is 3-1 with a 4.47 ERA, a 6.5 BB/9, and an 8.6 SO/9 over the course of his 52.1 inning career.
The Blue Jays released Jeffress after just three games and the Brewers signed their once-prized prospect on April 18th. Since then he has completely shut down the PCL, pitching to a 1.51 ERA across 41.2 innings for Triple-A Nashville. He averaged nearly ten punch-outs per nine innings and had relatively strong command of his pitches, posting a walk rate of just 3.9 BB/9.
Jeffress has averaged 5.2 walks per nine innings over the course of his extensive minor league career. If he has actually found his control after all these years, then there’s a chance he may finally make it as a dominant back-end reliever.
He certainly has the stuff. The 6’1 205 lb right-hander made top prospects lists because of his fastball that can touch 98 with movement and a hard curve with sharp break. According to Fangraphs.com, his two-seam fastball – he almost never throws the four-seam these days – has averaged 96.1 MPH over the course of his career.
Aside from being erratic, Jeffress’s other problem from his days as a prospect was off the field. Jeffress has been suspended twice for marijuana and faces a lifetime ban should fail another drug test. But that does not seem to be an issue anymore; he has not failed a test since 2009 and players on 40 man rosters are not even tested for such substances.
In a corresponding move, the Brewers have demoted Rob Wooten to Triple-A.