2012 Dodgers Player Profile: Kenley Jansen, One Man Heatwave

Kenley Jansen has struck out 247 batters in only 145 1/3 professional innings.

Kenley Jansen, a native of Willemstad, Curaçao in the Netherlands Antilles islands, was originally signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers as an amateur free agent in 2004, less than one month after his seventeenth birthday, as a position player. Because switch-hitting catching prospects don't make it to LA Because he wasn't hitting enough to warrant further consideration as a catcher - he peaked at .227/.298/.397/.695 with Great Lakes as a 20-year old hitter - he and the Dodgers decided that his future and his strong arm both belonged on the pitching rubber.

2012 Dodgers Player Profiles
This continues our series of 2012 player profiles, where we will analyze one player per day, between now and the end of spring training. This is also the spot for our community projections, so be sure to give us your predictions for each player for this season in the comments section.

The newest arm in the Dodger minor league system was a fast learner and about one year after his first appeared as a pitcher in July 2009, he made his major league debut.

Jansen is simply a pitcher that demands to be noticed, and not just for his imposing 6' 5", 255 pound presence. His fastball sits in mid 93 mph range, and he can throw it into the mid-to-upper 90s, but it is his ability to miss bats with that fastball that really catches the eye. Not only was his 16.10 strikeouts per nine innings pitched ratio an all-time major league record (50 innings minimum), but his ability to induce swings and misses with it is unparalleled.

Over the past three seasons, no one has come close to Jansen's 38.6% swing and miss rate on fastballs. Tyler Clippard's 33.9% is reasonably impressive, especially compared to the league average of 14.7, but Jansen is close to making batters miss one hack for every 2.5 that they take at his fastball, compared to a league average of almost one in seven.

That should make it no surprise that, over the past two years, Jansen relies on his heater more than all but one other major league pitcher (Matt Thornton), throwing his fastball on 86.8% of his offerings to batters.

Accordingly, one must conclude that National League batters are sitting "dead red" with Jansen on the hill and still swinging and missing at an extraordinary rate. If he ever gets the slider really working, watch out!

Sometime it appears that his own heart is more of a nemesis than opposing hitters. Jansen missed 25 games in 2011 with an irregular heartbeat, then had another mild scare this spring with a thirty-minute episode of rapid heart beating. But if the heart holds up, the young catcher who once represented The Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic could easily be the next dominating Dodger closer.

Img_1564_medium

Three springs ago, this was Kenley Jansen

Trivia

Jansen already has more major-league pitching experience (80 2/3 innings) than minor-league (64 2/3 innings).

Jansen chose number 74 because that is his house address number in Curacao.

Despite his offensive struggles, he has hit minor league home runs at a faster rate (about 1 every 20 games) than he allowed them (2 in 52 games).

He still has a perfect major-league batting line of 1.000 / 1.000 / 1.000 in two plate appearances.

Contract Status

Jansen will earn $491,000 in 2012. He has accrued one year and 73 days of major league service time, so he won't be arbitration eligible until after the 2013 season at the earliest. Two of his three minor-league options have been used.

Previous Dodgers Player Profiles:

2011: A Rudder To Keep The Dodger Bullpen On Course

Stats

Year Age IP BB/9 K/9 ERA FIP x-FIP tERA ERA+
2010 (A+ - AA)
21 45.0 4.60 15.60 1.60 1.25* - - -
2010 (MLB)
22 27.0 5.00 13.67 0.67 1.82 2.95 1.59
588
2011 (MLB)
23 53.2 4.36 16.10 3.71 2.85 1.74
2.06 131
2012 Projections - Age 24 Season



Source IP BB/9 K/9 ERA FIP
Bill James 52.0 4.67 15.58 1.73 1.68
Marcel 55.0 3.60 11.13 3.11 2.81
ZiPS 63.0 4.43 14.00 2.29 2.52
PECOTA 65.0
4.3 13.7
2.17
-
* Estimated
(Photo by Jeff Golden/Getty Images)

2012 Outlook

Given that he only has 80+ innings in the majors, one might think that the league would start catching up with Jansen, but since he is also still growing as a pitcher, the outcome may not be so obvious. Slated to be the set-up man to closer Javy Guerra, Jansen could easily slide into that closer role should Guerra falter, but he could also see many highly leveraged situations as the primary eighth inning reliever. I'll guess that Jansen posts a 2.32 ERA in 68 innings, with a 1.04 WHIP, and 9 saves.

What is your guess for Jansen in 2012? Be sure to give us ERA, Innings Pitched, and WHIP in the comments, plus anything else you wish to guess.

Thanks to baseball-reference.com and fangraphs.com for the statistics.

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