If you want proof that sometimes players take circuitous routes to the major leagues, look no further than the career of former first round pick Jeremy Jeffress.
Of course, he hasn’t made the majors yet, but he’s one step closer — as MLB.com’s Jordan Schelling reported earlier today, Jeffress is being promoted to Double A Huntsville. It’ll be his third level this season, after throwing a dominant eight innings for Single A Wisconsin and 10 less-dominant innings with Hi-A Brevard County.
Jeffress, typically a starter, has been working out of the bullpen since making his return from a 100-game “drug of abuse” suspension and early-season arm troubles. While the club still sees him as a starter long-term, the idea is that Jeffress will be more focused on a day-to-day basis if there’s a chance he’s going to pitch every day — and, in turn, less likely to start smoking marijuana again.
He was recently added to the 40-man roster, despite the fact that such a move didn’t have to be made until after this season. Some people speculated that the Brewers did it to protect Jeffress — under the minor league testing policy, he was on his last strike and another positive test for pot would have resulted in a lifetime ban. As a member of the 40-man roster, Jeffress can only be subjected to the Major League testing policy, and therefore cannot be suspended for marijuana use. Doug Melvin swore that the roster move was made to “reward” Jeffress for working his way back and keeping his nose clean, and even said there was a chance Jeffress could be pitching in Milwaukee by the end of the year as a September call-up.
I didn’t think it was possible at the time, but if the aggressive promotions are any indication, Melvin wasn’t screwing around when he said that. If Jeffress can continue his success by pitching well out of Huntsville’s bullpen (not a guarantee, as he’s struggled in his past two stints there), Milwaukee may be a possibility. Of course, there are concerns about starting his arbitration clock, but the Brewers have already burned one of his option years by adding him to the 40-man roster without bringing him up.
If the club thought enough of him to add him to the 40-man early and follow this aggressive promotion plan, I don’t have a problem with him getting a September call-up. The only problem would be making sure he gets innings, but at this point maybe all he needs is a taste of the big league environment to make sure he’s motivated to make another push as a starter next season.