SF Giants top prospects: No. 13 — RHP Sean Hjelle
Highest Level: Double-A (Richmond)
Acquired: Draft (2018)
Future-Value Grade: 40+
Considered one of the most MLB-ready prospects in the 2018 draft, Sean Hjelle was one of the few “sure things” in a volatile SF Giants draft class. The towering 7’0” (he’s listed at 6’11”, but is actually 6’11.5”) right-hander has a unique profile. Hjelle isn’t like other notable towering pitchers like Randy Johnson and Jon Rauch, who relied on premium velocity. Instead, he has shown excellent control and contained hard contact.
Hjelle projects to have four average or better offerings with a fastball, slider/cutter hybrid, curveball, and changeup. None of them project as plus, but his size adds a level of variability that could help them play up. We have never seen a pitcher like Hjelle before. That means big-league hitters will not have any experience facing someone like him either.
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, I believe he has more upside than most other prognosticators.
He stalled a bit once he reached Double-A in 2019. 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 was forced to maintain that stock on his own. If he returns this year with the same command of his four-pitch mix, he should be on track to finish 2021 at Triple-A and possibly make his big-league debut.