Jeff Blaine Pickler
- Bats Left, Throws Right
- Height 5' 10", Weight 180 lb.
- School University of Tennessee
Jeff Pickler was a career .299 hitter in eight minor league seasons, topping .300 three times at AAA. He never made the major leagues despite that fine contact hitting. If you subtract his one bad season on the contact front, he hit .312 in his other 7 seasons on the farm. His father Scott Pickler has been a long-time college coach.
Pickler hit .341 for the University of Tennessee in 1996 and .332 in 1997. In '98, Jeff batted .445. He led the Southeastern Conference in average (.021 over Clint Johnston), hits (109, four more than Scott Pratt) and doubles (30, 3 ahead of Eddy Furniss). He stole 25 bases as well. He had the sixth-best average in conference history and also ranked sixth in NCAA Division I in average. He was named the SEC Player of the Year and was a consensus All-American as the top second baseman in NCAA Division I. He was chosen as the All-American second baseman ahead of Xavier Nady and Willie Bloomquist among others.
The Milwaukee Brewers chose Jeff in the 11th round of the 1998 amateur draft. He made his pro debut with the Ogden Raptors, tearing up the loop to a .364/.443/.486 tune with 20 steals in 28 tries, 39 walks to 25 strikeouts and 55 runs in 71 games. He turned 59 double plays at second base, most in the Pioneer League at the position. He was third in the league in average behind Jay Gibbons and Jorge Piedra. Jimmy Gonzalez beat him out for All-Star honors at second base, though.
Pickler split 1999 between the Stockton Ports (.338/.382/.412 in 80 G) and the Huntsville Stars (.279/.330/.350 in 51 G). His 156 hits led all Milwaukee farmhands. Had he qualified, he would have edged Eric Byrnes for the California League batting championship.
The Californian infielder split 2000 between Huntsville (.303/.376/.346 in 71 G) and the AAA Indianapolis Indians (.307/.388/.365 in 56 G). Had he qualified, he would have been fourth in the Southern League and 8th in the International League in average.
Despite his 2000 performance, Pickler was back with Huntsville for all of 2001 as they had Mark Loretta and Ronnie Belliard in the majors and Marco Scutaro at AAA.. Pickler batted .287/.360/.327 with 34 steals in 48 tries and 74 runs. Never a big-time bopper, he failed to homer in both 2001 and 2002. He had 326 assists, leading SL second sackers.
The Texas Rangers chose Pickler in the AAA phase of the 2001 Rule V Draft. He split 2002 between the Tulsa Drillers (4 for 24, 2 BB) and the Oklahoma RedHawks (.299/.384/.348). He would spend his next three seasons solely at AAA. With Oklahoma in 2003, he had a batting line of .222/.315/.296, his lone season under .285, in a far cry from the usual. He did steal 32 bases while only being gunned down five times. He also turned 85 double plays, tying Joe Thurston for the lead among Pacific Coast League second basemen.
Pickler rebounded in 2004 to hit .311/.369/.410 for the RedHawks with 15 steals in 18 tries. With Alfonso Soriano ensconsed at second, Jeff had no chance of a call-up. He moved to the Colorado Rockies chain in 2005. Assigned to the Colorado Springs Sky Sox, he batted a lofty .331 with a .388 OBP and .456 slugging percentage. He stole 16 bases in 22 tries and scored 72 runs. Though the 2005 Rockies' second base duo of Aaron Miles and Luis A. Gonzalez was not overly productive, Pickler again did not get called to The Show. He finished his career by placing 8th in the 2005 Pacific Coast League in average. He did not win All-Star honors at second as those went to Andy Green.
Away from the professional game, Pickler has been involved in college baseball. From 1999-2006, he spent the falls as an assistant coach for his father at Cypress Community College. He also was an assistant coach at the University of Arizona in 2009.
In 2011-2013, Pickler was the Los Angeles Angels' minor league defensive coordinator. In 2015 and 2016, he worked for the Los Angeles Dodgers as a special assistant for player development. In 2017, he was added to the major league coaching staff of the Minnesota Twins as a coach and coordinator of major league development and stayed until the end of the 2018 season. In 2019, he moved to the Cincinnati Reds in a similar role.