The SF Giants welcomed back a top pitching prospect in Sean Hjelle before Friday night's game as they were in need of extra pitching. Sam Long was optioned to the Sacramento River Cats in a corresponding roster move, per the team's transaction page.
Top SF Giants pitching prospect promoted in roster move
Alex Cobb was scratched from Friday's start, so the Giants opted for a bullpen game. Hjelle was tabbed as the bulk innings arm, allowing two earned runs across three innings.
This is the 25-year-old's second stint with the Giants in 2022. He completed a scoreless frame in a game against the St. Louis Cardinals last month. There is no word yet as to whether Cobb will hit the injured list, but Hjelle could remain on the active roster as insurance.
The 6-foot-11 pitching prospect began the season in Triple-A and showed improvement in some areas. Hjelle reached Triple-A in 2021 and posted a rough 5.74 ERA, 5.77 FIP, 1.80 WHIP, 5.9 K/9, and a 1.21 SO/W ratio in 53.1 frames with the River Cats.
He does not have overpowering stuff with a fastball that sits in the low 90's, but he is capable of recording a healthy number of strikeouts. That said, he relies more on the unique downward plane of his pitches to induce poor contact.
During his first stint in Triple-A, it was concerning to see his strikeout and walk numbers move in the wrong direction. Those numbers have improved in 2022 as he has produced a 5.49 ERA, 5.03 FIP, 1.46 WHIP, 7.2 K/9, and a 3.00 SO/W ratio in 41 innings.
Despite a rough introduction to the Pacific Coast League (PCL), Hjelle has continued to induce a groundball in over 50 percent of batted ball events. Of course, the ERA may not be a promising number, but ERA can be misleading in the hitter-friendly PCL.
The decision to demote Long is a tough one. The left-handed hurler has looked good in his brief time with the Giants. In 10 appearances, he has registered a 2.92 ERA, 4.20 FIP, 1.21 WHIP, 6.6 K/9, and a 1.50 SO/W ratio. This includes two scoreless frames in an outing against the Miami Marlins on Thursday.
The Giants originally used him as a starter in 2021, but he has been limited primarily to low-leverage bullpen duty this season. It feels like they are unsure of which is the right way to deploy him.
Nevertheless, the Giants have an extra arm in the bullpen in Hjelle, who is capable of eating multiple innings and that is a skill that they could leverage again soon enough.