As the 2016 MLB playoffs roll on, Los Angeles Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen has introduced himself to a national audience. The burly right-hander, who would look equally comfortable playing defensive line in the NFL, possesses upper-90-mph speed and nasty movement on his fastball and cutter, part of a repertoire of pitches that enabled him to post a career-high 47 saves during the regular season while compiling a paltry 1.83 ERA.
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On Sunday night, during Game 2 of the NLCS against the Chicago Cubs, a game the Dodgers had to win to even the series, Jansen came on in the eighth inning in relief of ace Clayton Kershaw and threw two shut-down innings, striking out four without giving up a hit.
Jansen has spent 2016 showing off his powerful arm on the mound, but not too long ago, he was flashing his prodigious strength behind the plate.
Jansen was initially drafted by Los Angeles in 2005, when he was still a teenager. He was used as a catcher in the Dodgers organization until 2009, when the team decided that his poor hitting had become a detriment to his game and asked him to switch to the mound. Possessing a killer arm didn’t hurt. The Dodgers got the idea for the switch after watching Jansen make plays like the one he made in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, when he started at catcher for Team Netherlands and threw out Ryan Braun at second from his friggin’ knees.
That’s the type of ridiculous strength you see now when the 6-foot-5, 270-pound hurler throws a 98-mph cutter; but seeing footage of his arm strength as a catcher made his smooth transition to pitching all the more inevitable.