SF Giants Top 31 Prospect Rankings: 2020 Midyear Update
SF Giants top prospects: No. 10 — RHP Sean Hjelle
Highest Level: Double-A (Richmond)
Acquired: Draft (2018)
Future-Value Grade: 45
Considered one of the most MLB-ready prospects in the 2018 draft class, Sean Hjelle was selected by the San Francisco Giants near the top of the second round.
The towering right-hander has a unique profile. Just a half-inch short of seven feet tall, Hjelle isn’t like other notable towering pitchers like Randy Johnson and Jon Rauch who relied on premium velocity. Instead, he has excellent control and works off containing hard contact.
He started 2019 with Single-A Augusta and earned a promotion to High-A San Jose after just nine starts. After 14 more starts, he joined Joey Bart and Heliot Ramos in a late-season promotion to Double-A Richmond.
Hjelle projects to have four average or better offerings with a fastball, slider/cutter hybrid, curveball, and changeup. None of them project as elite, but his size adds a level of variability that could help them play up.
If he were an average height for a pitcher, he’d project like a right-handed version of Andrew Suarez—someone expected to move quickly with a shot to stick in the back of a rotation. Given the uniqueness of his delivery and the potential for him to add strength to his frame to increase his velocity, he has more upside than the average prospect.
At the same time, he stalled a bit once he reached Double-A. Advanced hitters consistently squared him up, especially the second and third times through the order. Granted, Hjelle also faced a .430 BABIP that suggests his 6.04 ERA included plenty of bad luck, and his 3.33 FIP and 3.59 xFIP further that point.
The Giants didn’t hesitate to promote him aggressively in 2019, and while he was likely ticketed for a return trip to Double-A, he’ll be forced to maintain his stock on his own. The organization logically believes that it’s easier for pitchers to stay in top form individually than hitters. So while prospects like Wilson are in Sacramento at the team’s alternate camp, Hjelle is not.