Gregg Jefferies came through the minors during the baseball card boom and with much ado, twice winning Baseball America's Minor League Player of the Year and was twice named league MVP. Jefferies turns 44 today. He is, in my mind, a hall-of-fame prospect, having come up through the minors with a loud resume as a pure hitter with speed and promising power. He was considered to be the "Next Great Met" and manager Davey Johnson suggested he could hit .300 standing on his head. His only weakness was his fielding and having started as a SS in the minors, he never played a game at that position in the majors.
Coming up as a 17-year old into pro ball in 1985, the Mets decided not to rush Jefferies along too quickly and it took him 3 years before he made the full-time jump to the Majors in 1988, pinch-hitting for pitcher Doug Sisk against Brian Holton of the Dodgers. Jefferies popped out to 3b. He batted over .330 in his 4 minor league seasons and he joined the Metes for good in late 1988, hitting .321 and garnering enough rookie of the year votes to finish 6th in NL voting despite having only played 29 games.
But Jefferies career didn't progress the way baseball pundits expected and though a full-time player in New York for 3 years, his statistics didn't match expectations and after batting only .272 in 1991, he was sent to the Royals in an off-season deal. Not a patient hitter, Jefferies had to rely on singles and doubles to get him on base and his .374 slugging in 1991 just wasn't enough. He was better in Kansas City but in a major overhaul, the Royals sent Jefferies to St. Louis for Felix Jose.
Still only 25, this is where Jefferies would shine. He was an all-star in each of his two seasons in St. Louis and the money would follow as the Phillies signed Jefferies for four years and $20 million in 1995. It was Jefferies last biggest contract and he stayed a Phillie until he was to the Angels for Doug Nickle in August of 1998.
When I think of Gregg Jefferies, I think of an uber-prospect with incredible numbers on the back of his baseball cards. A guy whose maturity and ability to play the game at the highest level, trailed him a few years which might explain why it took him so long to get through the Mets minor league system, considering the numbers he posted. He was one of the hardest players in baseball to strikeout and it wasn't so easy to walk him either. If it was anywhere near the strike zone, Jefferies would swing.
He flamed out in his early 30s after signing a two-year contract with the Detroit Tigers. He was apparently a good enough Major Leaguer to be included on 2 Hall-of-Fame ballots in 2006. Jefferies also finished 11th in NL MVP voting in 1993 and 17th in 1994.
The California native is now a high school baseball coach at Foothill High School in Plesanton,California and he works at Total Players Center, also in Pleasanton.
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