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We continue our rankings debates with a look at the game's best reliever.

RotoBaller's expert writers have come up with our consensus rankings for mixed leagues, but that doesn't mean we agreed on everything. In this space, we'll hear from rankers with the biggest differences of opinion on a well-known player and have them defend their position against each other.

Today, the subject of discussion is Dodgers closer extraordinaire Kenley Jansen. Pierre Camus thinks Jansen's tremendous work over the past half-decade is enough to justify taking him well inside the top 50, while Kyle Bishop is reluctant to sink such a high draft pick into a player who only tosses a few innings a week.

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2018 Draft Rankings Debate - Kenley Jansen

Ranking Tier Player Position Kyle Nick Pierre Jeff Harris Bill
49 4 Kenley Jansen RP 62 57 42 44 48 56

 

Pierre Camus' Ranking: #42 overall

You don’t take closers early, especially in the first three rounds. I know, I know. Blanket statements aside, let’s see why Jansen could bring more value to the proverbial table than some other starting pitchers being selected in the same vicinity on draft day.

To me, the early rounds aren’t about securing a top-10 starter or an elite middle infielder. It’s all about getting the best player possible and the closest you can get to a sure thing in the fantasy world. That way, you aren’t having to order a Code Red on one of your top players who turned into a bust and then scramble to fill that hole on your roster throughout the season. Closer is the most volatile position of all, but that’s exactly why you want Jansen on that fence, you need Jansen on that fence.

Jansen was the sixth-ranked pitcher in standard 5x5 roto leagues according to Yahoo! I’m not referring to relievers here, but all pitchers. If you dig deeper, you may say that he’s not that unique. He wasn’t the only RP to tally more than 40 saves (Holland and Colome topped him, with three others at 39), reach 100 strikeouts (there were seven others), or post a sub-2.00 ERA. What does make him unique? He’s the only guy to produce at this level year-in and year-out.

Craig Kimbrel is the only other reliever to post at least 30 saves each of the past four seasons and 25 or more saves in six straight seasons. You could make a case for him as the top closer, except that his walk rate had been over 3.00 BB/9 for three straight seasons and spiked to 5.09 before last year’s sudden dip to 1.83. Jansen’s walk rate has gone down nearly every season and stayed at 0.92 BB/9 in 2017, second-best among all qualified relief pitchers (Pat Neshek, where are you now?). New manager Joey Cora has also expressed that he may work Kimbrel into non-closer opportunities, leading to a less conventional role. Jansen will keep shutting the door in the ninth inning for the World Series runner-up.

Aroldis Chapman is arguably the most talented closer in the league when healthy, but injury concerns and the potential for a short leash with multiple options behind him should leave his ADP much lower. There is no other reliever that can even make a claim to approaching Jansen’s value, as they haven’t held the role for more than two or three seasons.

If anything, NFBC owners are more in line with my way of thinking, not Kyle or any of the other rankers who list Jansen outside the top 50 players. His current NFBC ADP is 36.9, placing him eight spots ahead of Kimbrel and higher than aging starters like Verlander and Greinke. I’ve made the argument before that you can wait another round and find several starting pitchers with comparable value in rounds 4-5, so taking Jansen in the third round won’t negatively affect your rotation. While many MLB teams find closers to be disposable commodities, it’s no coincidence that the best teams, like the Dodgers, have a lock-down guy on hand. It should be no different in fantasy baseball.

 

Kyle Bishop's Ranking: #62 overall

Like any sane fantasy owner, I have no quarrel with Kenley Jansen. He’s without a doubt the best closer in the game today. The gargantuan whiff rates, the microscopic ratios, the durability, the team context – it’s all fantastic, and there’s no reason to think Jansen won’t just keep doing the damn thing in 2018. But no matter how transcendent they are, 65 innings can only move the needle so much for your fantasy squad.

Let’s say that you’re in a rotisserie league that has a cap of 1,400 innings. For the sake of argument, let’s also assume that both Kenley Jansen and Hector Neris (the #15 reliever off the board, at 144 ADP) perfectly replicate their 2017 performances. If you drafted Jansen (again, 100 picks earlier), your ERA would drop by 0.01, your WHIP would fall by 0.02, and you’d gain about 15 saves and 25 strikeouts. Is that difference in production really worth reaching for a part-time player in the third or fourth round? Reader, it is not.

Here is a short list of players you will be passing up the opportunity to own if you listen to Pierre and draft Jansen according to either his inflated ADP or his own bullish ranking: Brian Dozier, Corey Seager, Andrew Benintendi, Jose Abreu, Marcell Ozuna, Starling Marte. And those are just the hitters!

There’s plenty of value in a consistent and durable elite option, especially at a position where turnover is the name of the game. But there’s simply too much talent on board at that point in the draft that will have a more significant impact on your team’s bottom line. I can’t go along with picking Jansen, or any other closer, before I’ve finished my first (okay, second) beer of the draft. Feel free to reach for him in any of the leagues we share, Pierre; I’ll be busy snagging a stud bat or SP in that round and laughing all the way to the bank.

 

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