2022 Pre-Season SF Giants Prospects: 20-11
14. Sean Hjelle
Weight: 228 lbs.
Projected Level: Sacramento (Triple-A)
MLB ETA: 2022
Tool Grades: (Present/Future)
FB 50/55 | CB 50/55 | CH 40/50 | CMD 45/55
PV 40 | FV 45
One of the most advanced pitchers in the farm system, Hjelle started the season in Double-A and was again one of the most reliable pitchers in the rotation playing as the #2 starter in the rotation behind Caleb Kilian before Kilian got traded to the Cubs. Hjelle got promoted to Sacramento in the second half of the season and was roughed up a bit, but finished the season strong with his best start as a River Cat in early October.
Hjelle worked on lowering his arm slot from a true ¾ to a low-¾ arm slot this season and keeping his torso to be more vertical on the mound during his leg drive to help improve his fastball characteristics. Hjelle’s fastball has more tailing life than sink and its velocity falls off as the game goes on, starting from 92 to 95 MPH that touches 96 early in his starts to 91-93 MPH touching 94 after around 60+ pitches. His lowered arm slot helped his fastball achieve a lower vertical approach angle at the top of the zone while his natural steep downhill angle at the bottom of the zone because of his height allows him to still generate plenty of groundballs.
At its best, Hjelle’s secondaries grade out as above-average. His knuckle-curve is a hard pitch that sits in the mid-80s and tops out at 87 MPH with bat-missing break down in the zone while his high-80s changeup has good fading action. He is not afraid to throw any of his pitches on any count against any hitter. He is still around the strike zone this season; however, his control and execution were a bit worse compared to a couple of years ago.
Entering his age-25 season, Hjelle’s potential role is a bit clearer moving forward. He works best as a finesse pitcher with three big-league pitches that generate plenty of weak contact. However, his in-game velocity dip and his lack of a true third pitch limit his ceiling to a back-end starter or as a reliever in either an opener or bulk late-inning role where he will sit in the mid-90s and could throw even harder while going through a lineup one time.