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Dodgers: 3 Options to Replace Kenley Jansen as LA’s Closer

We owe so much to Kenley for being one of the best of all time, but enough may have to be enough already.



Well, that didn’t take long. Just 4 days after notching his first save of the year and talking about how confident he was feeling, we’re right back to the old routine. The blown save against the Athletics may be his first of the season, but it marks Kenley’s 11th in his last 92 appearances. To compare, it took 3 full seasons and 205 appearances between 2016 and 2018 for him to blow the same number of save opportunities.

After Wednesday’s loss, Dave Roberts called the outing “uncharacteristic,” but this trend is nothing new. It has been understandably frustrating to watch as a fan when there are so many alternatives already within the Dodgers bullpen.

Let’s take a look at a few in-house options to replace Kenley, should he continue to show signs of decline.

Honorable mention: Brusdar Graterol

Graterol and his electric 100 MPH fastball would almost certainly be number one on this list, but the lack of knowledge on when he will be joining the major league club leaves him out of the conversation for now. 

3. Tony Gonsolin

Gonsolin being on the IL keeps him from being higher on this list, but he shouldn’t be down long and could very well step into the role once he returns. After not making the starting rotation, there isn’t really a defined role for Gonsolin this year. He’s sure to get his spot starts here and there, but his talent is too good to waste in the middle innings.

2. Victor González

We all saw how dominant González was during last year’s postseason, and he carried that same momentum into spring training. Through 10 appearances, Victor put up fantastic numbers, striking out 13 while allowing only 4 hits and no runs. While his first few regular-season appearances have had mixed results, the potential is there for him to make a difference as a potential closer this season.

1. Corey Knebel

Corey has been the best reliever for the Dodgers this season, and it hasn’t been close. In fact, he’s been unhittable in his three outings. He is also the only other pitcher on the team to record a save this season. As recently as 2017, Corey was an all-star closer with filthy stuff. Injuries derailed him after that, but being a full year removed from Tommy John has helped him rediscover all of his pitches. If there needs to be a changing of the guard at the closing position, Knebel is the guy.

Final Thoughts

Some were quick to point to the offense struggling with runners in scoring position on Wednesday, the team went 2-21 on the afternoon. However, at minimum, that offered an opportunity to see Kenley pitch in a high leverage situation when it matters less. April, not October.

Still, the empirical data is already there — and it has been collecting for a few seasons now. He’s not the Kenley of old. He can’t pitch on back-to-back days. And, as we saw when the Dodgers won it all in 2020, he’s not the best option to be saving games for Los Angeles anymore.

More: Best Options Should Kenley Jansen Lose Closers Role!

NEXT: Trevor Bauer Has Ball Removed From the Game for Foreign Substance Testing

Written by Daniel Palma

Daniel is an avid sports fan who loves his hometown teams. If he's not watching baseball, you can find him playing or coaching. No matter what, he'll always root for the Boys in Blue!

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  1. Your comments are pretty accurate. Kenley has a problem with consistency. One day good, the next one he is out of sync. His cutter and fastball hardly got over 90-91 mph. We wouldn’t be discussing him if Roberts put up a better lineup. Does Betts need another rest 7 games into the season? No! Smith had a bad game at the plate and Pollock looks absolutely lost at the place. Both guys had several opportunities to drive in runs with bases loaded and 2nd and 3rd with only 1 out. If they had driven in just one run between them Kenley would have gone into the 9th with at least a 2 run lead. Why would Roberts put the one guy who has struggled all spring and into the season in the 5 hole when we needed someone who is a better hitter right now? Betts doesn’t need rest. He may have a sore back but that isn’t the reason Roberts gave for him not playing. I feel we will probably have to go to several guys closing in addition to Jansen and Roberts knows it. These games we lose because of a closing problem are going to hurt come October.
    DR

    • Everything here in what ya posted is right on. I have to believe Roberts got blasted through social media after putting Jansen in to close with just a1 run lead and after Kenley pitched the night before this day game. But how about this all lefty hitting bench. No matter what others may say this Dodger bench currently is the weakest link on this club. Matt Beaty has NO business being on this roster because McKinstry can and does equally well or better in this utility re. He’s shown to be better offensively as well than Beaty, who’s a waste as of now and needs to be replaced with a RHB coming off the bench. We have more than enough LHB on this roster as it is.

  2. Good article. Good analysis. Knebel is ready right now. Not only is he throwing nasty knuckle curves, and other offspeed stuff, he’s hitting 97 with his fastball. Graterol needs to take this time to come up a go to offspeed pitch to complement his 100 MPH heat. Hopefully everything comes around for him as the season progresses. Gonsolin needs to pitch as often as possible in any capacity available. Periodic starts. Long relief. Short relief. Periodic closes. Gonsolin would be a high leverage starter on just about any other team. The Dodgers need to be a little bit more creative in getting him into games since they have such a loaded rotation.

  3. Jansen has no stuff, no command, and a below MLB average fastball. He should never be put in high leverage situations again.

    I don’t know why Roberts can’t see what everyone else sees?

  4. Dodgers will be fine. They will pitch whoever is best to get the win/save. It’s early and the Dodgers are in first place and are 2 for 2 winning series so far. They won the World Series with Kenley on the team last year and will win it again. Is he the closer for the team – probably not. Knebel certainly looks like it at the moment. Doc will do what’s needed thruought the season to get the Dodgers back to the playoffs – no worries there. Enjoy the day off, and Home opener tomorrow.

  5. Roberts has been & will continue to be the weak spot on this team – he’s more worried about being “buddies” than doing what needs to be done – & not moving a guy over to 3rd in extra innings in an away game tells me all i need to know about his “Managerial skill”. Jansen was great 4+ yrs ago. Beatty doesn’t belong on ANY MLB team, Pollock is HORRIBLE & should bat 8-9th in the few games he should be in, Barnes should play once per 5 games. I realize it’s early in the year, but you need to put your Best Lineup in play Every Game possible. This is Baseball — NOT Football

  6. Graterol and Gonsolin and Gonzalez are NOT closer options at this point! Knebel, yes, Treinen, possibly, Urias absolutely but he’s earned ghe right to be a starter,Nelson and Price, maybe if they get straightened out ( they’re really not far from that).
    But don’t expect an announcement that there is a new closer. Those other guys will just be put in that spot more and more, especially in back to back opportunities.d

  7. With Covid shortened class days at the local high school, my teenage son was done with classes early enough for us to get to the game in Oakland. Rare treat to have the Dodgers roll through Oakland, and the Coliseum rocked like Dodger Stadium north. Blue everywhere and during Take Me Out To The Ball Game, “ROOT ROOT ROOT FOR THE DODGERS!” shook the concrete. The A’s fans looked stunned and laughed uncomfortably.

    My Junior Varsity son was intrigued to watch Kenley warm up in the open air bullpen, the closest he ever has seen Jansen in person. Unfortunately, my son called the 9th inning blown save before Kenley entered, shaking his head that “this doesn’t look good Dad,” which demonstrates that today’s baseball kids already have put Jansen on the category of “Old guy who used to be really good, and who deserves old-timer respect, but what the heck is he still doing on the mound now?”

    Nonetheless, Kenley did not lose the game for LA. While his 9th inning outing was ugly, he gave up just the tying run, not a walk-off loss. Our base running error earlier in the game resulted in an out at 3rd base that killed one inning even with a beautiful run-scoring bunt. LA went to the 10th with a free runner at 2nd base and could not get him anywhere near scoring.

    We’re 5 and 2 heading into today’s Opening Day, which is not a disaster. But, we need some new thinking about the bullpen. Perhaps a few starters can use their between starts workouts to put some pitches on the field, rather than just in the bullpen. Bauer pitched solid. And the Dodgers seemed pleasantly surprised to get so much love at a road stadium. However, we needed to expand leads when we had the chance, not figure that the then 0-6 A’s were going to roll over and give up to an 0-7 start.

  8. You guys all got spoiled by peak Jansen who was other worldly and one of the most dominant closers ever. Jansen is still an above average closer. The beauty of this team is that they dont need one guy to be the man all the time. They have plenty of options to close games in Jansen, Knebel, Treinin, and Graderol at the top of the list. Everyone will contribute to closing games and pitching in high leverage situations. This is a GREAT team, enjoy the ride 🙂

  9. Kenley has struggled with his control in the last 2 seasons. Previously his control was excellent coming in to close the save. Walking batters is too crucial for Kenley (especially since he has been too likely to give up big hits in the reason 2 or 3 seasons). Knebel seems capable to master the closer situation and he sure needs a chance. It’s too early to
    put the others in the consideration.

  10. Knebel and Gonzalez looked fantastic closing out todays game. I was all for giving Jansen a chance, but his stuff just doesn’t look very imposing. It shouldn’t take long to figure out what looks pretty obvious.

  11. Knebel has looked very good (including the home opener). He’d be my choice.

    Treinin would be the obvious second choice in my book. He has the experience and doesn’t look panicked out there.

    As much as I like Graterol, in my book he gives up too many long balls still. It seems like everything from him is 105MPH right across the plate.

    Gonsolin seems to be becoming a spot starter / middle relief guy. I wouldn’t put him in the closer role.

    Gonzalez is going to be a real fine pitcher for the Dodgers. I’ll be curious to see how they keep working him in.

    JMO

  12. Who is going to tell Roberts he can’t use Kenley two days in a row? Can Roberts be fined for using Kenley two days in a row? Choosing the best reliever for the circumstances, in the highest leverage situations, rather than naming someone the “closer” may be the best strategy for this year.

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