Jeffress led his high school basketball team in scoring and three-pointers as a senior, an indication of his premium athletic ability.
In April 2006, Jeremy threw a no-hitter for Halifax County (VA) High School with 10 strikeouts to outduel Virginia Tech signee Rob Whitley. For the 2006 season, Jeffress went 9-1 with a 0.44 ERA, striking out 121 batters in 63 2/3 innings.
In 2007, Baseball America rated Jeremy as 4th-best prospect in the Brewers organization. And that is where they had him, at #4 again, in the winter before both the 2008 and 2009 spring camps opened. But in the spring of 2010, they dropped Jeffress down to #21 because of his relapse into pot-smoking, again. After missing the book in 2011, he was at 13th-best in the K.C. Royals farm system in the winter before 2012 spring training.
Jeremy's sister, Racquel, plays basketball at Virginia Union. (2006)
August 30, 2007: Jeffress was suspended for 50 games by Major League Baseball after testing positive for "a drug of abuse." It was no secret within the Brewers organization that Jeffress had tested positive for marijuana.
Because the West Virginia Power only had 5 games left on their schedule, Jeremy spent the first 45 games of the 2008 season on the suspended list. Jeremy was provided every opportunity to get his career back on track through the Brewers' Employee Assistance Program.
October 2007: Late in October, Jeffress failed another drug test. Inside sources say the "drug of abuse" is marijuana, and Jeffress has been caught using it more than once. This was the 2nd official time he tested positively for it. (Players are suspended 50 games for a first offense, 100 games for a second and banned for life for a third failed test.)
The club-administered test that Jeffress failed during the fall instructional league program in Arizona does not fall under the auspices of the minor league drug program. Thus, it's up to the club to apply any disciplinary measures it feels is appropriate.
Because of Jeffress' apparent marijuana problem, his future with the Brewers remains clouded. He obviously is a very talented player with a high ceiling. But he has to decide if he wants to smoke pot or play baseball. You can't do both.
"Baseball is a game I love. This is what I want to do for a living," said Jeffress, who has been participating in the organization's winter development camp at Maryvale Baseball Park early in March, 2008.
"I had a problem. I've been to rehab to get it straight. I'm not ashamed that I've been in rehab. I went there to get help. It's something that helped me."
He admitted in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in March that he had attended a drug counseling program. Since then, he has been able to follow what baseball requires as far as conduct.
June 29, 2009: Jeffress was suspended for 100 games for testing positive for a third time for a "drug of abuse."
The penalty leaves Jeffress, 21, one positive test away from a lifetime ban under the Minor League Drug Treatment and Prevention program. (Players are not suspended on their first positive test for a drug of abuse.) With only 75 games remaining in Brevard County's 140-game season, the suspension will carry over into 2010.
Reached Friday evening by telephone, Jeffress' agent, Josh Kusnick, reluctantly confirmed the positive test.
"I'm sure it's already getting around the ballpark in Brevard County," said Kusnick, referring to the high Class A affiliate where Jeffress was pitching. "All I'll say is it was not a performance-enhancing drug. We all know the issue Jeremy has had in the past. He obviously has a very sensitive issue he has to overcome.
"This is all about Jeremy now. This is a problem that goes beyond his career. It's more important to get the person fixed. He wants to have a healthy and productive life, much less baseball."
Jeremy loves to play golf. And he even invested in it as a business.
"I have a little driving range back home [in South Boston, Va.] that I own, so I go out and hit a lot. My dad built it from the ground up with me and my older brother, Freddie. I go down there a lot during the offseason and help out. I own some land as well. Those are some of the investments I made after signing with the Brewers. My mom wouldn't let me spend it on cars and things like that," Jeffress said.
In 2013, while with the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons, Jeffress was diagnosed with juvenile epilepsy, which gave an explanation to the high anxiety and seizures that he had experienced through most of his adult life. Before receiving a proper diagnosis, he self-medicated with marijuana.
Jeremy can pinpoint his personal rock bottom. A first-round draft pick with a 100-mph fastball, Jeffress was hit with a second suspension for marijuana use in 2009, banned for 100 games and sent home to Virginia. Jeffress felt empty there, so he left and traveled alone to Florida, where he took a job bussing tables at a pizzeria chain.
"I literally felt like nobody cared," Jeffress said. "I didn't even feel like my own family cared. Now, that was all in [my head], but I felt like, 'I don't belong here.' So I left after two weeks. I should have stayed at home, but I left and got a job. I was 21, 22 years old, and I was still a fool.
"I was working that job, and I thought, 'Is this really where I want to be? Is this really what I want to do? Do I really want to be working right here?' That's what really changed things for me. I don't care who knows about it now, because it made me a better person. It showed me what I want to do with my life."
What Jeffress wanted to do was pitch. Nearly seven years later in 2016, Jeffress is pitching some of the Brewers' biggest innings. With lefthander Will Smith on the disabled list, Jeffress has sole possession of Milwaukee's closer role, and he has gone 3-for-3 in save chances through four scoreless appearances.
"It's probably the highest point of my career, watching him do what he's doing," said Jeffress' agent, Joshua Kusnick.
After his stint bussing tables, Jeffress rededicated himself to baseball. The Brewers moved the righthander to the bullpen when his suspension expired in mid-2010, at least partially in the hope that everyday duty might sharpen Jeffress' focus. Jeffress pitched well enough to make it back to the Majors by year's end.
Jeffress was suffering seizures, especially when he wasn't smoking marijuana, and he finally found a solution when the Blue Jays sent him to Buffalo to see a specialist. Jeffress, doctors discovered, had long suffered from juvenile epilepsy. Jeffress' seizures have been under control since then, but his tenure with Toronto ended after three poor outings early in 2010. He was designated for assignment.
A free agent for the first time, Jeffress and Kusnick could choose where the reliever would go next. "One club offered me a Major League deal for Jeremy," Kusnick said. "The Brewers offered us the biggest Minor League deal that was offered to us, but I legitimately had a big league deal on the table.
"I said, 'Jeremy, we have a crossroads here. Do we take the big league deal and try to fix it on the fly in the big leagues, or do we go somewhere you can anchor yourself and right the ship permanently? I told him, 'If I'm wrong, you can fire me.' I thought the situation in Milwaukee could fix him permanently. It's probably the smartest thing I've ever done."
"This road has been long, I'm telling you," Jeffress said. Today, the pizzeria where Jeffress once worked is one of his favorite restaurants.
"I know a lot of people say that those suspensions were bad, but I look at it as a good thing. I really do," Jeffress said. "No. 1, it saved my bullets. No. 2, it made me a better person. It made me see what I really want to do in life." (McCalvy - MLB.com - 4/12/2016)
Jeremy believes his long and harrowing battle with seizures and juvenile epilepsy began at 15 with a freak accident on a basketball court.
"My buddy and I were out there," Jeffress said. "I was trying to do some dunks and stuff. This kid literally came out of nowhere. I literally did not see this kid and I went up for a dunk and there was his basketball, right under my landing. I slipped on it and hit my head hard. My body froze. I got up, my head was dizzy and I just walked home. Didn't think anything else of it. I never went to the doctor about that incident. I just went home and said nothing about it. Took a nap. That's one thing I shouldn't have done. I hit my head pretty hard on the concrete. That was it."
That was the beginning. Sitting calmly on the bench in the visitor's dugout at Tropicana Field, Jeffress talked about the tribulations he has gone through for the past 12 years with epilepsy in the hopes that his story may help others. "It's tough," Jeffress said. "I'm not going to lie." The seizures didn't come until years later. Jeffress was taken by the Brewers in the first round of the 2006 draft, out of Halifax County High School in South Boston, Virginia. His first seizure came in January 2008.
"When I had that seizure, I lost my memory a little bit," Jeffress said. "They were asking me who my mom was and I was looking at a strange face, not knowing who she was. It scared her, for sure. I woke up, I didn't know what happened. They said I had a seizure, but for a while, they didn't know what to call it. They thought it was sleep deprivation. After that, I had a couple more in a row. They put me on some medication, told me to take that. They still couldn't find out what was wrong."
It would be five years before a proper diagnosis was made as Jeffress suffered from insomnia, anxiety and muscle twitching. Simple things like brushing his teeth and ironing clothes could be a trial. The seizures didn't stop. "I had one when I was in Buffalo," Jeffress said. "I woke up with a pile of blood in my bed. The housekeeping lady came in and saw me."
The turning point came in June 2013. Jeffress had gone from the Brewers to the Royals and then the Blue Jays, pitching for their Triple-A affiliate in Buffalo. The seizures were still prevalent and the Blue Jays were concerned.
"The Blue Jays, they had a pretty good doctor up in Buffalo they used," Jeffress said. "I kept having them and they wanted find out what was wrong. They sent me to a doctor and I had a sleep study for about a week. After I got out, I went to her and she said it was juvenile epilepsy. They finally figured it out."
Juvenile epilepsy, which represents 5-10 percent of all epilepsy cases, usually manifests itself between the ages of 12-18. Involuntary muscle twitching and seizures are among the signs. Finally getting proper diagnosis and medication allowed Jeffress to live a normal life as a Major League pitcher. But the battle continues daily.
"I'm not a bad person," Jeffress said. "I have a lot of anxiety each and every day. Every day I wake up, I've got so much. I have a hard time waking up. Sometimes it's hard to go to sleep. Most of the time I'm by myself, I'm scared and nervous. But I'm doing things to make sure I'm well taken care of. I look at it as something I have to deal with. People have to deal with life. Life is a tough thing to go through. You're going to have ups and downs, you're going to have to deal with them. Take it and run with it."
Amazingly, it all goes away when Jeffress is on the mound. He refused outright assignment with the Blue Jays in April 2014, became a free agent, and re-signed a Minor League contract with the Brewers. He reached the Major Leagues for good on July 23, 2014, and since then, he is 8-3 with a 2.41 ERA and 27 saves over 156 appearances (as of August 24, 2016). The Rangers acquired him and catcher Jonathan Lucroy on July 31.
"I know when I get on the mound, I am a different person," Jeffress said. "I feel like that's my comfort zone, my resting point. That's where I'm at my best. I am a savage out there. I'll fight for you, I'll fight for anything, anybody." (Sullivan - MLB.com - 8/22/2016)
Jeremy has wonderful family support which is significant in his battle with childhood epilepsy. South Boston is a town of just over 8,000 on the Dan River in South Central Virginia, just across the border from North Carolina in rural Halifax County. Freddie and Yolanda Jeffress, married for 33 years, have made their home there. Jeremy is the youngest of four, behind sisters Kristie and Kelly, and brother Freddie III.
Freddie Jr. is a retired computer engineer and Yolanda—a librarian and administrative assistant—still works in the local school system. They also own 40 acres of farmland for growing tomatoes, cabbage and lettuce, as well as the family-owned Tees-N-Southfork golf driving range and full service restaurant. Life revolved around family, sports, school and the Spanish Grove Baptist Church.
"Middle-class people," Jeffress said. "We had dinner together every night together. They raised me right, that's for sure. I grew up in church. I'm a big believer in prayer and faith and try not to stress a lot. They have been with me through this, making sure I get all the right nutrients, I'm taking my medication and staying in tune with God. He makes everything happen."
Jeffress has his own family now. He and his fiancée Denise have a 2-year old daughter, Jurnee. "Amazing," Jeffress said. "She is doing wonderful right now. She is 2. A lot of people say, 'the terrible twos,' but she's growing, she's talking, telling me, 'No.' She's a very open-hearted little girl. She is my princess. I know I'm excited to be in Texas. Great group of guys. These guys fight for you, I know that. I want to win, I'm happy to be here. Lucroy and I came over here, we are enjoying every moment."
Beautiful family, thriving career, a new spot with a first-place team ... everything appears to be flourishing for Jeffress, but the daily vigilance with epilepsy continues. Lucroy, who has known Jeffress since they were teammates in the Brewers' farm system, speaks with great admiration about how far his close friend has come.
"Like all of us, maturation is a big part of this game," Lucroy said. "We all have to grow in our own way. He had some issues and he conquered them. What you see is the culmination of all the hard work and maturation. You have this nasty, intense closer who is dominating.
"It is very special to see. His heart is in the right place and his head is in the right place. He wants to win. You couldn't ask for anybody better than Jeremy." (Sullivan - MLB.com - 8/22/2016)DWI
Aug 26, 2016: Jeffress was arrested on a DWI charge, and he has been placed on Major League Baseball's restricted list.
Rangers president of baseball operations Jon Daniels said Jeffress' placement on the restricted list is not a drug-related suspension but because he would not be fit to play in a game against the Indians. Jeffress was booked at 5:13 a.m. CT, and he posted bail and was released around 11:00 a.m. "The Rangers are certainly disappointed in Jeremy's actions of early this morning," Daniels said. "We have been in touch with Jeremy's representatives and Major League Baseball, and are continuing to work through this situation and gather more information.
"I think this was one individual making a poor decision. I don't think it reflects on the other guys in that clubhouse."
Daniels said he expects to have Jeffress back for the next game. Daniels anticipates that investigations from Major League Baseball and local law enforcement could take some time and that Jeffress will play during the investigations. (R Posner - MLB.com - Aug 26, 2016)
Jeremy has been admitted to a Houston-area rehabilitation clinic to deal with his alcohol issues. He is not expected to be suspended by Major League Baseball, but he is not expected to pitch for the Rangers for the remainder of the regular season.
"First, I would like to offer a sincere apology to the Texas Rangers, my teammates, my family, and to the fans for the incident that took place on August 26th," Jeffress said in the statement. "Make no mistake, drinking and driving is wrong. I made a mistake that not only jeopardized my well being, but the well being of others, and I thank God that nobody was hurt because of my mistake.
"I have faced and overcome much adversity in my life—some of it self-inflicted—and I try very hard every day to be a positive influence in the lives of my family, friends, fans and most importantly my daughter, Jurnee. Moving forward, I promise to do everything I can to live my life the right way, as I look to put this incident behind me. I promise to do whatever it takes to get back on the field playing the game I love. And I will begin this process by being away from the team while I get the help I need to overcome these difficult personal issues.
"I am also making a commitment to speak out against impaired driving for the rest of my life, as I hope others will learn from my mistake. I also would like to thank the police department for their professionalism in handling the situation as well as they did. Lastly, I ask that others respect my privacy during my absence, just as I ask for their forgiveness. Thank you and God bless you all."
"The Rangers commend Jeremy for seeking treatment and taking responsibility for his actions," said Rangers president of baseball operations Jon Daniels. "Our thoughts are with him as he is dealing with this situation. We ask everyone to respect his privacy as this time."
Jeffress could be back by postseason, although it would be difficult after not pitching for over a month. "He's a great guy," Lucroy said. "He made some mistakes, obviously. Now he's suffering the consequences because of those actions. The first thing I thought whenever I saw the news was that we need to help him. … I have a personal connection to him.
"I've known him for a long time. I've played with him since High A. I've known him for 10 years now. There's nothing going through my mind other than the fact that I'm thankful that he wasn't hurt and didn't hurt anybody." (Sullivan - MLB.com - 8/31/2016)
Sept 23, 2016: Jeremy was activated from the restricted list.
Jan. 16, 2018: Jeffress pleaded guilty to a DWI charge stemming from a 2016 arrest.
Jeffress, then with the Texas Rangers, was arrested on Aug. 26, 2016 by Dallas police.
According to Dallas County District Court online records, Jeffress was sentenced to three days in jail. TMZ Sports reported that he will not have to serve the sentence as he was credited with time served.
July 12, 2018: After the Brewers-Pirates game, Major League Baseball announced that lights-out reliever Jeremy Jeffress was named to his first career All-Star team. The Brewers had a franchise-record five All-Stars in 2018.
June 2006: Jeffress signed with the Brewers, via scout Tim McIlvaine, for a bonus of $1.55 million after they chose him in the first round (16th overall), out of Halifax County High School in South Boston, Virginia.
December 19, 2010: The Royals sent RHP Zack Greinke, SS Yuniesky Betancourt, and cash considerations (reportedly $2 million to offset the buyout of Betancourt's 2012 club option) to Milwaukee; acquiring SS Alcides Escobar, OF Lorenzo Cain, RHP Jake Odorizzi, and Jeffress.
November 8, 2012: The Blue Jays sent cash to the Royals, acquiring Jeffress.
April 17, 2014: Jeremy chose free agency from the Blue Jays, instead of reporting to Buffalo.
April 18, 2014: Jeffress signed with the Brewers again. And he was happy about it.
"I did not think I would be back,” Jeremy said. “I know my time here was a great experience. It was home for me. I felt comfortable here. Just a big homecoming, you know? It’s a blessing, to be honest with you.”
August 1, 2016: Jeffress and Jonathan Lucroy were acquired by the Rangers from Milwaukee; Texas sent the Brewers outfielder Lewis Brinson, pitcher Luis Ortiz, and a player to be named later.
January 13, 2017: Jeffress and the Rangers avoided arbitration, agreeing on $2.1 million for 2017.
July 31, 2017: The Brewers sent RHP Tayler Scott to the Rangers, re-acquiring Jeffress.
Dec 1, 2017: Jeffress agreed to a 1 year contract with the Brewers. His deal included a $50,000 signing bonus and $1.7 million for 2018.
The Brewers hold options for $3.175 million in 2019 and $4.3 million in 2020 with no buyouts. Jeffress can also earn up to $2.2 million in incentives each year for innings and games finished. If exercised, the options would cover Jeffress' final arbitration season and one year of free agency.
|Birth City:||South Boston, VA|
|Draft:||Brewers #1 - 2006 - Out of high school (VA)|
Jeffress is a small righthander, but he has a lively 94-102 mph FASTBALL and a 93-96 mph, two-seam SINKER, sweeping 79-82 mph 12-to-6 spike-CURVEBALL and a hard 88-91 mph SPLITTER.
He has hit over 100 mph on at least one occasion. But though his fastball doesn't move much, it explodes out of his hand and hitters have trouble catching up to it.
2016 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball: 12.4% of the time; Sinker 63.7% of the time; Change .7%; Curve 20.3% of the time; and Split 2.9%.
2017 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball: 19% of the time; Sinker 47.6% of the time; Curve 18.5% of the time; and Split 15% of the time.
2018 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball 25% of the time, his Sinker 28%; Change less than 1%; Curve 32.3%; and Split 14.5% of the time. Average velocity: 4-seam 96.2 mph, Sinker 95.7, Change 91.9, Curve 81.8, and Split 91.2 mph.
Jeremy has very good arm speed and a smooth, clean delivery that comes from a high three-quarters arm slot. That motion makes it hard to pick the ball up out of his hand—especially his curveball.
He uses his lower half well. And along with his high leg kick, he might remind you a little of Dwight Gooden.
- Jeffress is aggressive, coming right at the hitters with above-average heat.
- He is erratic with his pitches, lacking the control he needs to pitch in the Major Leagues. That is partially due because he takes too big a stride in his delivery.
The righthander has been known to light up the radar gun but also to struggle with his command. After cleaning up his delivery the second half of the 2013 season at Buffalo, Toronto called up Jeffress on September 2, 2013.
"We've always liked his arm, everybody's liked his arm," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "It was just a matter of putting it together. We made some mechanical adjustments. He dropped his arm slot just a little bit, figured that might help with his command. All the indications and reports have said he has been throwing well, especially the last month. You don't come across those arms very often, so we want to know what we have."
As of the start of the 2019 season, Jeffress's career record was 25-7 with a 2.89 ERA, having allowed 25 home runs and 323 hits in 349 innings.
April 28, 2019: Jeremy Jeffress averaged just 91.8 mph on fastballs in his outing against the Mets. He’s had an average fastball velocity below 93.0 in all but one of his outings so far in 2019.
“His third outing was really good,” manager Craig Counsell said of Jeffress’ outing in St. Louis on April 22, when he averaged a season-high 93.3 mph on fastballs. “But last night it was down. We’re trying to get him back to where he was last year, there’s no question. He’s very capable of that, it was not that long ago, and he’s not there right now.”
Overall, Jeffress is averaging 92.3 mph on fastballs this season, which would be by far the lowest of his career. In 2018, he averaged 95.3 mph on those pitches. Jeffress began the 2019 season on the injured list with right shoulder soreness. The only other injury he’s landed on the injured list for in his career was a lower back strain with the Rangers in 2017.
Counsell said before the game that Jeffress is healthy now, and this isn’t a lingering injury.
“Health-wise, I think we’re past that,” Counsell said. “We’ve got to start exploring some mechanical things ... can we get him a little cleaner with his delivery? But it’s in there, he’s flashed 94s in his fourth appearance. It’s in there, I think it’s closer than we think. Last night was a little bit mysterious because it was down a little bit. But health-wise, there’s no concerns.
It’s still a small sample, but Jeffress’ velocity and whiff rates have not been what they looked like for most of his career prior to 2019. (S Langs - MLB.com - April 28, 2019)
- He is a great athlete who ran the 60-yard dash in 6.76 seconds.
October 2008: Jeffress was shut down from pitching in the Arizona Fall League with a shoulder strain.
June 2010: Jeremy developed some forearm stiffness after being activated from his 100-game suspension, going on the D.L.
- August 28-September 5, 2011: Jeffress was on the D.L.
May 21-July 10, 2013: Jeremy was on the D.L.
June 22-July 4, 2017: The Rangers placed Jeffress on the 10-day disabled list with a back strain he suffered while warming up.
March 6, 2019: Jeremy Jeffress says he is not hurt. But the radar gun readings indicated that he was not right, either.
Jeffress’ spring debut, which had already been delayed a few days, was cut short after three pitches in Wednesday's 5-4 win over the D-backs at American Family Fields of Phoenix because of what Jeffress characterized as weakness in his right shoulder.
“I don’t feel 100 percent with my body,” Jeffress said. Jeffress faced an 0-2 count against D-backs third baseman Eduardo Escobar in the fourth inning when catcher Manny Pina and third baseman Travis Shaw visited the mound. They were joined by head athletic trainer Scott Barringer and manager Craig Counsell, who had an extended conversation with Jeffress before the right-hander reluctantly walked off the mound.
“There’s no pain there. He asked, ‘Why are you guys out here?’” Counsell said. “I said, 'The fastball is 83 or 84 [mph].' He wasn’t aware of anything, and he wasn’t aware of anything happening, really. Nothing significant. He did want to stay in, yeah. ... We’re going to take a couple days off from throwing and try to work on some strengthening. He’s fought it a little bit this spring. He turned the corner and reported feeling pretty good. He’s just not there, obviously. Take a little time to strengthen it and see where we’re at.”
March 25-April 16, 2019 :Jeremy was on the IR with right shoulder injury. Jeffress had been trending in that direction since departing his Cactus League debut after three pitches with shoulder weakness