High on Life

Pitchers Jeremy Jeffress and Jeff Allison have both had battles with drugs. Thankfully, they are both finally back on the mound and trying to resurrect their formerly-promising professional careers. Thanks to Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton’s well-publicized battle with narcotics as a minor leaguer, there is renewed hope that players dealing with personal demons can have productive Major League careers.

Jeffress, whom I touched on earlier this season, was signed out of a Virginia high school with the 16th overall pick of the 2006 draft. He struggled a bit in his short-season debut after the draft and then made just 18 appearances in 2007 due to suspensions related to drug use. Now reportedly clean, and with a new focus, Jeffress has improved his control significantly (down two runs per nine innings) over his debut season and is striking out more than 12 batters per nine innings. In High-A ball, the 20 year old allowed 65 hits in 79.1 innings with 102 strikeouts. He was recently promoted to Double-A where he allowed two runs and three walks in 2.1 innings in one start.

Allison has a steeper hill to climb in his return to professional baseball because he has missed far more baseball than Jeffress and also had a much more dangerous addiction. The 23-year-old pitcher was originally drafted 16th overall out of a Massachusetts high school in the 2003 draft. He appeared in three games that season and then missed the next year entirely. Allison returned for part of 2005 and made 17 starts with OK results, especially considering what he was going through off the field. Things fell apart for him again, though, and he missed all of 2006 and 2007. Allowed to return to professional baseball in 2008, Allison has expectedly had an inconsistent season in High-A ball. He has allowed 101 hits in 104.2 innings, along with 46 walks and 61 strikeouts. Left-handed batters are hitting .305 against him, while right-handed batters are managing just .221. With runners in scoring position, batters are scorching Allison for a .316 average, compared to .213 with the bases empty, so he may be trying to do too much.

Both players have taken encouraging first steps in their returns from drug abuse, but it still a long road ahead. I, for one, am rooting for both of them.

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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospect analysis. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

3 Responses to “High on Life”

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  1. Akston says:

    I wouldn’t compare pot with heroin in terms of being destructive. Hell, I wouldn’t even compared pot with alcohol in terms of being destructive.

    Allison doesn’t merely have “a more dangerous addiction”, but more accurately “an addiction”. Period. Jeffress may be stupidly threatening his career by breaking the law and rules of the game, but what he’s doing is not addictive. This has been proven numerous times.

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  2. M says:

    Akston –

    “Drug Abuse” or “Substance Abuse” is in the DSM-IV and does include Marijuana as well as Alcohol. And it is not characterized by harshness of the drug. Rather, it is characterized by things such as “Recurrent substance use resulting in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home (e.g., repeated absences or poor work performance related to substance use; substance-related absences, suspensions or expulsions from school; neglect of children or household)”

    Regardless of the harm it does, since he knowingly violated his job in order to do Marijuana, he qualifies for “Substance Abuse” and thus Marc’s statement is accurate. Drug dependence is more of the addiction, drug abuse refers to people that use the drug more than once when they shouldn’t.

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  3. Tony Alaska says:

    Have you ever sucked **** for weed

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