With their second pick in the 2018 MLB Draft, the San Francisco Giants selected a 6-foot-11, right-handed pitcher from the University of Kentucky.
The first thing you’ll notice about Hjelle is his tall, lanky frame. But even with that frame, he’s able to repeat his delivery and has good mechanics.
His fastball sits in the 91-93 MPH range, but he can get it up 96 at times. Hjelle also possesses a plus curveball and a decent change-up to give him a solid three-pitch mix.
He worked out of the bullpen as a freshman at Kentucky and posted a 3.74 ERA in 21.2 innings pitched with 29 strikeouts and 11 walks.
In 2017 he was named the SEC Pitcher of the Year when he went 11-4 with a 3.89 ERA in 108.2 innings pitched with 102 strikeouts and 33 walks.
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Putting up those numbers in the best college baseball conference will obviously garner some attention, and Hjelle shot up draft boards.
This past season he posted a 3.44 ERA in 99 innings pitched with 91 strikeouts and 22 walks. The walk-to-strikeout ratio jumps out to you and is something I really love about his kid.
Obviously, there is a lot to like about Hjelle with that tall frame and the ability to generate some downward tilt on a mid-90s fastball.
While some projections after his 2017 season had him going a lot higher than where the Giants selected him at 45, he’s still a solid value and someone who I think can make an impact at the major league level rather quickly.
The one thing I do know about Hjelle having watched him pitch on several occasions is that he’s a competitor. He wants the ball in the biggest situations, and he’ll make you take the ball out of his hands when the game is on the line.
I do worry about how his stuff will translate at the major league level as he doesn’t have anything that will ‘wow’ the hitters. But he does know how to work in the zone and get hitters out, which is why many project him to be a middle of the rotation pitcher.
If he works his way through the system and becomes a third or fourth starter for the San Francisco Giants, then I think this pick will be worth it in the end.