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Draft Strategy

Showdown: Hendriks vs. Jansen

by NBC Sports EDGE Staff
Updated On: March 12, 2020, 5:01 pm ET

Often in the midst of your draft, you’ll find yourself deciding between a couple players at the same position. With Player Showdowns, we take two players who are closely ranked and have writers take a side and debate who should be selected first. Whose side will you be on?

We’ll offer up one Showdown per position (catcher, first base, second base, shortstop, third base, outfield, starter and reliever) here, and you can get dozens more by purchasing the 2020 Rotoworld Baseball Draft Guide. It’s an essential weapon to have in your arsenal at the draft table this spring.

Liam Hendriks vs. Kenley Jansen


Ah, it's the battle of old reliable against the one-year wonder. Hendriks emerged from relative obscurity to usurp the closer's job in Oakland away from Blake Treinen -- who entered the season as a consensus top-two closer -- and to post one of the most dominant seasons of any relief pitcher in the last decade. Now, the 31-year-old hurler enters the season with the ninth-inning role all to himself after registering a scintillating 1.80 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and 13.13 K/9 across 85 innings in 2019. The big reason for the massive jump in his performance? Increased fastball velocity. Hendriks' average fastball hummed at 96.5 mph in 2019, up nearly two full mph from the 94.4 that he averaged in 2018. Jansen, on the other hand, is seeing his repertoire deteriorate. The 32-year-old has posted decreasing save totals of 47 > 41 > 38 > 33 over the last four seasons. During that same stretch, his velocity has dropped each season as well, from 93.6 > 93.3 > 92.3 > 92.0. Jansen posted both the highest ERA (3.71) and xFIP (3.77) of his career in 2019 and his highest walk rate (2.29/9) since 2014. Jansen is also staring at a pair of very capable replacements in his own bullpen in Blake Treinen and Brusdar Graterol. If he blows a couple of saves early on, it's not out of the realm of possibility that he could lose his gig. Give me the younger, more stable and much harder throwing Hendriks over the rapidly declining Jansen. - Dave Shovein (@DaveShovein)


I was a bit more neutral on this one a couple of weeks ago, but Jansen has moved up some in my rankings of late. After a visit to Driveline over the winter, his velocity is up a tick this spring, and the cutter seems to be moving really well. Closing for the Dodgers might be the best situation for any reliever in baseball (though closing for the A's is pretty good, too), and it's not like Jansen was exactly bad last year; he still struck out 30% of the batters he faced and five times as many batters as he walked. I think he'll hold off Blake Treinen and end up as a top-five closer. - Matthew Pouliot (@matthewpouliot)

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