Sean Hjelle, RHP
DOB: May 7, 1997
BATS: R / THROWS: R
ACQUIRED: Drafted 2nd Round (#45), 2018
LAST LEVEL: Double-A
GiantFutures Ranks: #3 Starting Pitcher
Performance: Sean Hjelle was given some helium for his first full pro season. Starting in Augusta, he posted a 2.66 ERA in nine games, and then got promoted to San Jose, where he had a 2.78 ERA in 14 games. That earned him a promotion to Double-A, where he began to get knocked around a bit, posted a 6.04 ERA in five games.
Overall, Hjelle showed the consistency and above-average performance that the Giants are looking forward to. Overall, he had a 8.7 SO/9 innings, and just 2.3 BB/9 innings, and though the numbers were generally worse in Double-A, the biggest difference was that Hjelle was giving up more hits at the highest level. In both levels of Single-A, he had a 8.69 H/9 innings rate, but in his five games at Double-A, that rate shot up to 13.5 H/9 innings. He also gave up far more balls in the air, as his GO/AO ration in High-A San Jose was 3.74, but it dropped to 1.45 in Double-A.
Strengths and Weaknesses: It’s impossible to mention Hjelle without talking about his height. At 6’11”, he brings a unique look to opposing batters, and it gives his pitches, particularly his fastball, an extreme downhill angle. With a dropping knuckle curve, and a changeup, all of his pitches shoot down into the zone, and at his best, Hjelle will get a lot of ground balls.
Hjelle also has very good control of his body, and the consistency gives him control in the strike zone as well. So despite not having the velocity reminiscent of another tall pitcher, Randy Johnson, Hjelle’s control of his pitches gets him a solid number of strikeouts and less free passes than others. Hjelle’s fastball sits in the low-90’s, but plays up with his motion.
2021 Outlook: Despite the missing 2020 season, I expect Hjelle to be back in Double-A to prove himself. His struggles late in the 2019 season may have been as much about fatigue as they were needed changes. But Hjelle will need to prove he can be less hittable to move on. I’d be surprised if he doesn’t move onto Sacramento at some point in the season.
Future Profile: Hjelle doesn’t have ace potential, but he does have consistency on his side, and a very high floor. He looks like he should end up in the middle of the rotation somewhere, whether it’s the back half or closer to the front.