After signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2004, Kenley Jansen spent five seasons as a catcher before begrudgingly accepting a position change to pitcher.
The change came in response to Jansen struggling at the plate, which be believed he’d correct and thus initially was against becoming a pitcher. While Jansen wasn’t on board with no longer working behind the plate, his talent was hard to ignore.
A.J. Ellis marveled at Jansen’s control and remembers being impressed by his success against Major Leaguers, via Bill Plunkett of the OC Register:
I remember how polished his command was for a guy who was converting from a position player,” Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis said of his first impressions catching Jansen. “I thought he had a good fastball but not much of a secondary pitch. But it was almost like he threw too many strikes. But then you see the swings guys were taking against him – big-league hitters like David Wright, Angel Pagan – and you knew it was something special.
General manager Ned Colletti said he didn’t need to see much of Jansen pitching before being sold on the right-hander, which wasn’t par for course:
He was so good in Chattanooga. We went in to see him and, without exaggeration – and I’m usually the last to say ‘Yes’ – it was almost an immediate ‘Yes’ the minute we laid eyes on him that he could help us.”
Jansen earned his 100th career save this season and sits sixth on the Dodgers’ All-Time saves list with 106. His 44 saves this year are good for fifth place among all closers and a third-place tie in the National League.
Considering Jansen didn’t assume full-time closing duties until last season when Brandon League was routinely ineffective, his success is an extension of what he displayed in the Minors. Should Jansen maintain his current pace, he would surpass Eric Gagne’s All-Time Dodgers record of 161 saves in the 2016 season.
However, that would also require the Dodgers to re-sign the closer as he’s currently working on a one-year deal. Jansen and the Dodgers avoided arbitration in the off-season when they agreed to terms on the $4.3 million contract and will again go through contract negotiations this winter.