San Francisco Giants: Towering Sean Hjelle excelling for High-A San Jose

SF Giants hat. (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)
SF Giants hat. (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images) /

San Francisco Giants pitching prospect Sean Hjelle might not get the same hype as teammates Heliot Ramos and Joey Bart, but he is excelling in a similar fashion.

Pitcher Sean Hjelle was selected by the San Francisco Giants with the No. 45 pick in the 2018 MLB draft out of the University of Kentucky.

The 22-year-old is not your ordinary pitching prospect. The thing that immediately stands out with is his stature. He’s 6’11” and would become the tallest pitcher in MLB history if he reaches the majors.

Due to his towering stature, Hjelle presents a difficult challenge for hitters. His high release point and the unique downward plane with which he throws give hitters a different look.

Here’s a look at him in action:

It was actually somewhat surprising to see Hjelle begin the season at Single-A Augusta.

As a decorated college pitcher who won SEC Pitcher of the Year honors in 2018 when he posted a 3.44 ERA while logging nearly 100 innings of work and a second-round pick, there was some expectation that the Giants would be aggressive with his developmental track.

Ultimately, his time at the Single-A level was brief. In 40.1 innings of work, he recorded a 2.66 ERA while racking up 44 strikeouts against just nine walks.

On May 21st, he was promoted to the High-A affiliate in San Jose.

The High-A level presents a good challenge in Hjelle’s development, and so far, he has embraced and excelled in the face of that challenge.

Hjelle has recorded a 2.48 ERA since his promotion, yielding two runs or less in four of his five starts. He has continued to demonstrate advanced command while also getting plenty of swinging strikes, tallying 23 strikeouts and just six walks over 29 innings.

Despite his size, Hjelle has no problem repeating his delivery or throwing strikes, something that FanGraphs emphasized in their scouting report:

"Hjelle body comps to a young Pau Gasol and is remarkably athletic for his size. His delivery is graceful and fluid, and he has no trouble repeating it nor fielding his position, as he’s quick off the mound to corral bunts and cover first base, both of which can be challenging for XXL pitchers. [His] fastball only sits in the low-90s but plays up because of extension, life, and the angle created by his height. Those traits in concert with one another make for a heater that competes for whiffs in the zone. The secondaries are closer to average, often below, though Hjelle can locate them. He’s a pretty safe No. 4/5 starter candidate, though we might be underrating the impact of Hjelle’s size on hitters’ discomfort."

In addition to being able to command his pitches, Hjelle induces a lot of weak contact and he’s proven to be a groundball machine with a 69 percent of his batted ball outs coming on the ground since his promotion to High-A.

While players around the league try to create more loft as part of the launch-angle revolution, Hjelle is proving he can stymie that approach.

There’s no question the 22-year-old has pitched well this season, and he’ll generate more attention if he keeps it up against stronger competition.

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So despite being a bit overshadowed by teammates Joey Bart and Heliot Ramos, San Francisco Giants pitching prospect Sean Hjelle is creating some well-deserved hype of his own.