Giants prospect Sean Hjelle talks challenges of facing Double-A hitters

Ali Thanawalla

Giants prospect Sean Hjelle talks challenges of facing Double-A hitters

Sean Hjelle is one of many Giants prospects climbing up San Francisco's farm system. His rise through the ranks almost has reached the heights of his 6-foot-11 frame. 

Hjelle, the Giants' second-round pick from the 2018 MLB Draft, already has pitched at three different levels this season. He began the year at Class A Augusta before being promoted to Class A Advanced San Jose after nine starts. After posting a 2.78 ERA over 14 starts for the San Jose Giants, the 22-year-old reached Double-A Richmond. 

"It was an amazing night. I won't forget that one," Hjelle said Wednesday on KNBR regarding his Double-A debut. 

But it wasn't an easy one. 

Hjelle quickly learned what a difference Double-A is compared to Advanced Class A. Though it's only one level higher in the minor leagues, it can feel like much more. Miss your spot and a hitter won't let you forget about it. 

"Getting hit for five runs in one inning is definitely a big jump," Hjelle said with a laugh. "The guys up here, they definitely capitalize on mistakes. They're here for a reason. I gotta be a little sharper, and they're gonna jump on any little mistake that I throw."

Through two starts with the Flying Squirrels, the long and lanky right-hander has learned the hard way. Hjelle allowed four earned runs over 4 2/3 innings in a loss Thursday night and now has given up nine earned runs in 9 2/3 over his two Double-A starts. 

There's a silver lining, however.

Of the nine runs that have crossed the plate against Hjelle, eight have come in two separate innings. He gave up a five-run inning in his first start and a three-run inning in his next. 

Hjelle pitches to contact and uses his unusually tall height to his advantage to create odd angles for opposing batters. For the most part, his strategy has worked. Not at the Double-A level, though. 

The Giants' No. 6 prospect will have to make a quick adjustment against better competition. Failure can be the best learning tool, as long as it doesn't last too long. 

Despite recently enduring two tough starts, Hjelle is on the fast track to San Francisco. He joined the Giants' top-two prospects, Joey Bart and Heliot Ramos, in being promoted to Richmond on the same day. And from being drafted to now, Bart has been there behind the dish for Hjelle. 

"We have a really good relationship right now. We've got to the point where it's just a head nod here or there or a quick facial expression," Hjelle said. "We kind of know each other now and can keep the game flowing and moving that way."

[RELATED: Bart, Ramos honored by minor league coaches]

The former Kentucky Wildcat says he watches Giants games and studies the staff's pitchers. For now, though, he -- along with Bart and Ramos -- is focused on succeeding as a Flying Squirrel before anything else. 

"We just try to stay where our feet are right now," Hjelle said. "We're just trying to focus on the next day and just take it day by day."

MLB rumors: Giants bench coach Hensley Meulens accepts Marlins job


MLB rumors: Giants bench coach Hensley Meulens accepts Marlins job

Hensley Meulens, along with third base coach Ron Wotus, was one of the first two people who interviewed to be Bruce Bochy's replacement. Now, he's no longer with the Giants. 

MLB Network's Jon Heyman reported Sunday that Meulens has accepted a job with the Marlins. It's unknown what his official title will be, but it sounds like hitting coach and first base coach are open in Miami. 

Meulens joins bullpen coach Matt Herges as the second Giants coach to leave for a new team this offseason. Herges is staying in the NL West as the D'backs new pitching coach

Meulens, 52, spent the last 10 years on the Giants' coaching staff. He was Bochy's bench coach the last two seasons, and he previously served as San Francisco's hitting coach. 

[RELATED: Zaidi hires Cubs assistant GM Scott Harris as Giants GM]

The longtime Giants coach has interviewed with several teams over the years for managerial openings. For now, he will continue to wait for his shot. 

Meulens is joining Don Mattingly's staff -- the two played with each other on the Yankees in the early 1990s -- and he surely has hopes to still one day be a manager. 

Farhan Zaidi, Scott Harris give Giants front office they envisioned


Farhan Zaidi, Scott Harris give Giants front office they envisioned

SAN FRANCISCO -- A year ago, as Giants ownership set out to revamp the baseball operations department, members of the organization talked about the model they had seen in Chicago. The Cubs and Dodgers were two shining examples of what a modern front office could be, with a president of baseball operations working side by side with a general manager. 

Larry Baer turned to the Dodgers to find Farhan Zaidi, his president. Zaidi turned to the Cubs to find the man who will try and help him rebuild the Giants. On Sunday the Giants announced that Scott Harris, previously the assistant GM for the Cubs, will be their general manager

Harris has been viewed as a rising star in baseball circles, having spent most of his professional career as part of Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer's inner circle in Chicago. He was part of the group that finally put together a championship roster in Chicago, and Zaidi believes Harris' skill set will mesh with his own. In Chicago, Harris served as director of baseball operations and then assistant general manager. 

"The combination of his breadth of experience, contributions towards building a championship-winning perennial contender in Chicago, and his Bay Area roots made him an ideal fit," Zaidi said in a statement.

Harris, 32, is a Redwood City native who went to UCLA and then got his MBA from Northwestern while working for the Cubs. As he explained to The Athletic earlier this year, Harris got into baseball by writing letters to executives around the sport. Al Rosen, a former Giants executive, responded and became a mentor. 

Harris started with the Reds and then worked for the commissioner's office. He joined the Cubs as a 25-year-old and got his MBA in part by flying back to Chicago from spring training every weekend so he could grind through Saturday classes. 

With the Cubs, Harris assisted in player acquisitions, contract negotiations and evaluations and oversaw the organization's research and development department and salary arbitration process. Those who have worked with him describe Harris as an extremely hard worker, but also someone who is easy to get along with and laid-back in general, which should fit well with the front office that Zaidi is building.

Zaidi was part of a similar group in Los Angeles, where the Dodgers used their resources to put together a talented front office that had complementary skills. In recent years, Giants officials marveled at the size of the analytics department that worked near the visiting clubhouse at Dodger Stadium, and the Giants appear on their way to mimicking that kind of staff. 

The Cubs had a similar setup, and in Zaidi and Harris, the Giants have two top executives who have been on the front line for two organizations that are as advanced as any in the game. The Giants had plenty of success with the previous regime, winning more titles this decade than any other franchise, but it became clear that they had fallen behind in a lot of areas. 

They have not fully lost their luster, though. Harris always was headed for a GM seat, and in Zaidi and the Giants, he saw an opportunity to work for an organization that should be a perennial power. The Giants have the resources to do anything they want, but they had stopped developing stars.

Harris helped do just that in Chicago, and he'll now be a huge part of the braintrust in San Francisco.

[RELATED: Giants can dive into free agency with zero tax concerns]

There's one more significant hire to make, and the Giants expect to announce a manager early this week, adding a third piece who now will work alongside Zaidi and Harris. The Giants have been remarkably quiet about their plans, but sources said that in recent days Astros bench coach Joe Espada has emerged as the favorite.

Perhaps the Harris announcement is a sign of things to come. Harris still was working for the Cubs last month when Espada finished second to eventual managerial choice David Ross.