Jeremy Jeffress: Brewers Season in Review

Jul 30, 2014; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Jeremy Jeffress (21) throws a pitch during the ninth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Milwaukee Brewers defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 5-0. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

JEREMY JEFFRESS
Right Handed Relief Pitcher
2014 Salary:
$507,600
2015: Pre-Arb Eligible

In June 2006, the Milwaukee Brewers made right-handed pitcher Jeremy Jeffress their first pick in the 2006 Amateur Draft, selecting the Virginia high school phenom with the 16th pick in the initial round.

Always one of the Brewers top prospects, Jeffress pitched well in the minors but ran into some off-the-field difficulties, in particular drug usage. After two suspensions in the minors, he returned for the 2010 season in the Milwaukee organization, pitching at three minor league levels (A, A+, and AA) and ten games at the big league level before being packaged with Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, and Jake Odorizzi in a trade to Kansas City for Yuniesky Betancourt, Zach Greinke, and cash.

Jeffress spent two years with the Royals, pitching 63 games at the AA and AAA level, along with pitching 27 times for the Royals in the American League. In November 2012, he was purchased by the Toronto Blue Jays.

Inexplicably, Jeffress was released by Toronto in April 2014 and two days later was re-signed by the Brewers and the rest is history.

The hard-throwing reliever appeared in 30 games at AAA Nashville before getting called up for the second time to Milwaukee in late July.

In 29 appearances, he had 11 ‘perfect outings’ (no baserunners allowed) for the Brewers. He got roughed up a few times, but never gave up more than one run in those occasions.

Jeffress allowed just under one hit per inning pitched and walked only 2.2 batters per nine, with a K/W ratio of 3.57.

The big (6’1, 205#) righty pitched very well against right-handed batters (slash line of 221/274/235) but got hammered by lefties (392/458/510) in 61 plate appearances. These numbers include the three games with Toronto.

Jeffress used three pitches, with the fastball being most prevalent (76.1%). He threw a curve 21.7% and a change-up 2.2% of the time (Pitch-type Stats by Baseball Info Solutions).

Jeffress compiled a record of 1-1 with an ERA of 1.88. Although he did not record a single save, he did finish nine games. Brewers manager Ron Roenicke had a ton of faith in Jeffress, as he made the call to the bullpen 25 games in the last two months, a number which extrapolates to 78 games pitched in a complete season. That would rate among the league-leading totals in the National League, along with Brewer relievers Will Smith and Zach Duke.

2015 and Beyond

His average fastball of 96.4 miles per hour ranks 12th in the majors with pitchers with 30 innings or more, so you know he can bring it. The danger is when he depends on the heater too much without mixing other pitches in.

Jeffress gained some confidence in his breaking pitches (curve, change) late in the season and got some key strikeouts with them. When all his pitches are working, Jeffress is one of the Brewers top relievers. When things aren’t going well, his fastball just won’t do the job by itself.

The First Out at Third blog calls Jeffress the ‘next lights-out closer.’ Whether that will happen is debatable, but at the very least he could continue his seventh inning role or become a set-up pitcher against righties until he figures out how to get out lefties.

Jeffress is a ‘Pre-Arb 2,’ which means that he is not arbitration eligible and he is not a free agent. The Brewers control the game and can pretty much do whatever they want salary-wise. I don’t pretend to know what the Brewers plan to do, but I do think Jeffress can be a valuable part of the Brewers pen in the future (I hate the phrase ‘going forward’).

That said, they should offer him a modest raise–a salary in the $600-$700k range. Maybe they’ll give more or maybe less, but I think he pitched well enough to get the salary bump.

Keep him happy and work with him to improve, and Jeremy Jeffress might get to that ‘lights-out’ stratosphere.