Why Giants Pitcher Prospect Sean Hjelle Stood Out to Ryan Vogelsong

[CSNBY] Giants prospect Sean Hjelle talks challenges of facing Double-A hitters
Alex Pavlovic

SAN FRANCISCO -- A couple of years ago, the Giants sent Ryan Vogelsong to San Jose to help Madison Bumgarner evaluate one of the first rehab starts of his career. Vogelsong also shows up at big league camp in spring training and occasionally joins the Giants for short stints at Oracle Park. 

The longtime fan favorite is now a valued instructor and mentor, but where he really has made a difference is in the minor leagues. Giants prospects rave about spending time with Vogelsong in San Jose, Richmond or Sacramento, and Shaun Anderson, Logan Webb and Tyler Beede are among the pitchers Vogelsong has worked with the last couple of seasons. 

This year, Vogelsong spent time with the top three affiliates and got to work closely with a pitcher who could be part of the next wave to hit Oracle Park.

Sean Hjelle was the organization's second-round draft pick in 2018, and reached Double-A by the end of his first full professional season. On this week's episode of The Giants Insider Podcast, Vogelsong explained what he likes about the 6-foot-11 right-hander. 

"He's actually very easy mechanically because he's very athletic for how tall he is and his feet are very quick, and he has a very good sense of his body for being so long," Vogelsong said. "He has a very good delivery, too. It's actually pretty compact for how tall he is. There's not a whole lot to talk about in his delivery. That's why he's in Double-A already.

"He has the ability to throw the ball where he wants to a lot, he commands the strike zone, he's able to throw off-speed pitches in hitters' counts for strikes. He's on the track. Now it's just mentality, preparation, executing when things are going in a bad way."

Pitchers Hjelle's size typically have difficulty repeating their mechanics, but Hjelle walked just 2.3 batters per nine innings in 28 starts last season. The 22-year-old had a 2.66 ERA in Augusta and 2.78 ERA in San Jose before taking some lumps in Richmond, where he posted a 6.04 ERA in five starts. 

Hjelle is the organization's sixth-best prospect and second-best pitching prospect (after Webb), according to MLB Pipeline. He should start next season back in Double-A, but a quick promotion to Triple-A Sacramento wouldn't be a surprise. At either spot, Hjelle should get more time working with Vogelsong, who has tried to help young pitchers take the right mentality to the mound. 

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"Sometimes the biggest fault with Hjelle is he cares too much. I know that's weird to hear, but this guy wears a game and everything on his sleeves like a lot of us did," Vogelsong said. "But he lets it engulf him too much. Once he matures a little bit and figures out that part of it, you're going to see him pretty quickly, I think."

On the podcast, Vogelsong also gave his thoughts on Webb, Anderson and Beede, and told stories about his time with Bruce Bochy and Madison Bumgarner. You can stream it here or download it on iTunes here.

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