KENLEY JANSEN, 25, closer
Final 2012 stats: 5-3, 2.35 ERA, 25 saves in 32 opportunities, 0.95 WHIP, 13.7 strikeouts per nine innings.
Contract status: Still under team control.
The good: Thrust into the closer’s role for the first time in his career, the hard-throwing Jansen performed just about as well as expected, which is saying plenty. He’s only expected to blow every hitter away on three pitches.
After going on the disabled list again this season with an irregular heartbeat, he came back to allow only one run in his last nine games, striking out 13 in 8 1/3 innings. Despite the DL stint, appeared in a career-high 65 games. And it was only the third year the converted catcher spent the entire season as a pitcher.
The bad: He got off to a shaky start in his first five games (four earned runs in six innings), but in his next 50 innings allowed only nine earned runs (1.44 ERA). Did not throw as consistently hard as the previous season, when he established a major-league record with an almost stupid 16.1 strikeouts per nine innings.
Still, when he comes into the game, fans notice. Opponents, too.
What’s next: Most likely will return as the team’s closer, though it’s not an absolute certainty. Brandon League pitched lights-out as the closer when Jansen went on the DL, and continued in that role when he returned the final two weeks. League is a free agent, but if he re-signs, he could continue as closer. Either way, Jansen will have impact as the occasional closer or set-up man.
The take: He just turned 25 in September, so there should be only bright days ahead. Even if he does begin next season as the set-up man, his future still figures as a closer. Remember, to some degree he’s still learning how to pitch, so it’s not like he has to blow every hitter away. Even if it’s what everyone prefers.