Starting out as a young ball player from Willemstad, Curacao, Kenley Jansen found his way to MLB as an amateur free agent in 2004. The Los Angeles Dodgers signed the then 17-year-old catcher who did not yet realize it, but Jansen would be thrown into the world of professional baseball and stretched beyond the limits of his abilities.
With his 6-5, hefty frame, Jansen was the prototypical catcher, but the Dodgers had other plans for him. After a few years in the minors of unimpressive seasons, the team’s management decided to convert Jansen into a relief pitcher and, after 2009, he never looked back.
Less than two years after switching to the opposite side of the battery, Jansen was called up to make his major league debut with the Dodgers on July 23, 2010. Jansen only saw action in 25 games that season, but would return to have a killer rookie season in 2011. His performance that year led him to 7th place in the 2011 NL Rookie of the Year voting and solidified his spot on the team.
Everything was going great and Jansen was even entrusted with the burdensome task of being the Dodgers’ closer in 2012. Although he had his best season that year and recorded 25 saves, some heart issues caused him to lose playing time and eventually his role as closer to teammate Brandon League.
Alas, the resilient Jansen did not stop fighting for the Dodgers and has had his best season ever in 2013. With a 1.90 ERA in 74 appearances and an average of 13.0 strikeouts per nine innings pitched, Jansen has been a key factor in leading the Dodgers to the postseason. When League imploded early on in the season, Jansen was there for manager Don Mattingly who reinstated him to his former role as closer.
From Curacao to catcher to reliever to closer to reliever and then back to closer again, Kenley Jansen deserves an award for being the most flexible and resilient player the Dodgers have.