Continuing our series of indiviual Dodger Previews, we take a look at one of the most underrated closers in the game of baseball; Kenley Jansen.
MLB Network compiled their list of the top-100 players in baseball, notably snubbing Kenley Jansen from their list. Jansen continues to be one of the most overlooked players in baseball, despite 35-plus saves in consecutive seasons. If Jansen continues his current trend of improvement, we could be looking at baseball’s next great closer.
After a successful 2014 which resulted in 44 saves in his first full season as closer, Jansen looked to establish him as one of the top closers in baseball. Jansen’s season started off rough, as he missed the first month of the year due to surgery to remove a growth on his foot.
After being activated off of the disabled list on May 15th, Jansen’s presence was immediately felt. Jansen put together eight straight scoreless appearances to start the year, along with 14 strikeouts, zero walks, and only one hit allowed. Jansen would go on to outperform almost every closer in baseball from that point on, finishing the season with 36 saves in 38 opportunities. Jansen also boasted a 2.41 ERA to go along with a 0.78 WHIP and a 2.14 FIP.
Jansen also led all closers in K-BB/9 in 2015, which should not be overlooked. Jansen’s ability to strike batters out while still maintaining a low walk rate is very impressive. Luke Gregerson was the closest closer to Jansen in BB/9, although he had a K/9 rate below 9.
A key contributor to Jansen’s incredibly high strikeout rate would be his cutter, which he threw a league-high 85% of the time. With an average velocity of 92.5 mph, Jansen’s cutter proved to be one of the nastiest pitches in all of baseball. Righties hit a measly .147 off of him, mainly because of his ability to place his cutter away from hitters.
2016 Role and Steamers Projections
Jansen’s role for 2016 is pretty set in stone, especially after last season. Instead of discussing Jansen’s job security, let us take a look at his Steamers projections. After his performance last year, it is expected to see Steamers project Jansen to come back down to Earth.
Jansen is projected to have 35 saves to go along with a 2.43 ERA and a 2.62 FIP. Steamers also have Jansen tallied up for a projected 84 strikeouts in 65 innings pitched. These projections do seem likely, except for his save numbers. Given a full season and health, I think it is realistic to expect Jansen to eclipse the 40 save mark.
What Could Go Wrong?
Although Jansen has found his way onto the disabled list three times in his young career, each occurrence seems to be unrepeatable. In 2012, Jansen had heart surgery to permanently fix an irregular heartbeat that put him on the disabled list twice. Jansen’s health does not seem to be a concern, but a few stats do stick out.
In 2015, Jansen had an HR/9 of 1.03, which was 103rd among relievers. Jansen also allowed six home runs in a season for the third time in his career, which can be a cause for concern. Jansen also had an HR/FB ratio of 10.3, which is well below average. Jansen’s vulnerability to the long ball needs to be adjusted, but Jansen’s peripherals do show that it is possible.
What Could Go Right?
Looking at Jansen’s year, there is nothing you can say to discredit the success he had. So when presented with the question, “What can go right?” the answer is somewhat easy. Jansen having a successful year and reaching a long-term deal with the Dodgers.
If Jansen can carry over his 2015 success into this upcoming year, the Dodgers will be in an excellent situation. Having an elite closer is a huge plus, which the Dodgers would like to have. Jansen will be a free agent at the end of this season, which is something he might want to do. Extending Jansen this season should be the ultimate goal, which would be the best possible outcome for Jansen and the Dodgers.