Shaun Anderson

Why Giants pitcher prospect Sean Hjelle stood out to Ryan Vogelsong

hjelleali.jpg
Ali Thanawalla

Why Giants pitcher prospect Sean Hjelle stood out to Ryan Vogelsong

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.

Giants rookies dress up as ‘Reno 911’ cops for flight to Atlanta

Giants rookies dress up as ‘Reno 911’ cops for flight to Atlanta

The Giants' Triple-A affiliate is located in Sacramento, but their rookie dress-up day had a Reno theme.

For the team's flight from Boston to Atlanta on Thursday evening, the veterans made the youngsters don "Reno 911" cop uniforms, complete with the short shorts.

Luckily for us, most of the players embraced the outfit and posted photos on their Instagram Stories.

We'll let the images speak for themselves:

[RELATED: How Giants' top five picks played]

Based on the image, 12 Giants rookies got in on the fun, and they even used a real cop car as a prop at the airport in Boston.

With 12 "cops" on the flight to Atlanta, you know no shenanigans will happen.

How Giants' top five MLB prospects from preseason performed in 2019

How Giants' top five MLB prospects from preseason performed in 2019

While the Giants have tumbled down the standings in the final month of the season after making an earlier postseason push, the team's farm system experienced quite the 180 this season. 

The Sacramento River Cats won the Pacific Coast League and now play one final game Tuesday against the Columbus Clippers in the Triple-A National Championship. San Francisco's Triple-A team was one of the Giants' five affiliates to make the playoffs this year. In one season, the Giants went from one of the worst collections of minor leaguers in baseball to a middle-of-the-pack farm system with prospects on the rise. 

Through trades, call-ups and players rising and falling, the Giants' top prospects list has changed for the better. Trading for a player like Mauricio Dubon, who looks like an everyday solution up the middle for the long term, only helps. 

Prior to the season, and the Giants improving their farm system, here is how MLB.com ranked the team's top five prospects: Catcher Joey Bart, outfielder Heliot Ramos, shortstop Marco Luciano, pitcher Shaun Anderson and pitcher Logan Webb.

Let's look at how each performed this year and what it says about their future.

Joey Bart, Catcher

Bart entered the season with unreasonable expectations. He hit .298 with 13 homers for the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes in Class A Short Season last year after the Giants selected with the No. 2 pick in the 2018 MLB Draft. Fans really started clamoring for his MLB debut when he hit .350 for the big league club in spring training, and took home the Barney Nugent Award

Bart began the 2019 season with the San Jose Giants in Class A Advanced. He had two hits and two RBI in his team debut and really hit his stride in July when he batted .289 with six homers for the month. 

His time in San Jose came to an end in early August when the Giants promoted the catcher to Double-A Richmond. After a slow start, Bart caught fire to end the year. He was named the Eastern League Player of the Week to end the regular season when he hit .538 with a homer, four doubles, a triple and six RBI in his final seven games. 

[RELATED: Why Giants top prospects exceeded expectations]

Between San Jose and Richmond, Bart hit .278 with 16 homers and an .824 OPS this season. He will take the next big step this week when the Arizona Fall League begins Wednesday. There, he could learn another position for the first time, advancing his ETA to big leagues. 

Though it likely won't be at the beginning of the season, expect Bart to join the Giants at some point next year.

Heliot Ramos, Outfielder

Ramos, who just recently turned 20 years old, came into the season after a down year in Low A Augusta. He made the needed adjustments over the winter, however, and was the Giants' most impressive prospect this year. 

Built more like a running back than a center fielder, Ramos showed off his five-tool potential this year. The Giants' top pick in the 2017 draft hit .306 with 13 homers and an .885 OPS. He was promoted to Double-A the same day as Bart and hit .242 with three more homers for the Flying Squirrels. 

At the time of his call-up, Ramos was the youngest prospect ever to play for Richmond. He hit .290 with 16 homers, 24 doubles and an .850 OPS. There's no overstating just how special he was this season at such a young age. 

Ramos will be 20 all next season. The Giants want he and Bart to be on similar paths to the majors, but will they bring him up that young? 

When the Giants drafted Ramos, he said he wanted to play at Oracle Park in three years. It's quite the stretch, but don't doubt the young star.

Marco Luciano, Shortstop

For as much hype as Bart and Ramos garnered this year, Luciano might have earned even more. 

Luciano turned 18 less than a week ago. Like Ramos, he's extremely advanced for his age. Already standing 6-foot-2 and 178 pounds, Luciano hit .322 with 10 homers and a 1.055 OPS over 38 games in the Arizona Rookie League. He also added nine doubles, two triples and eight stolen bases. 

Before he even turned 18, Luciano played nine games with Salem-Keizer. His season was cut short due to an ankle injury, but it's not thought to be serious.

President of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi has raved about Luciano and the shortstop already is getting compared to a young Alfonso Soriano. Giants fans will need some patience with this one, but he looks to be worth the wait. 

Shaun Anderson, Pitcher 

All Anderson needed was eight starts with Sacramento this season to get called up to San Francisco. His future, however, still is a bit of a mystery.

Anderson, 24, was 2-1 with a 3.76 ERA for the River Cats over eight starts when he received his promotion. He has had his ups and downs with the Giants, especially as a starter. 

The young right-hander had a 5.33 ERA with six strikeouts per nine innings and a 1.8 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 16 starts with the Giants. He recently has pitched as a reliever, striking out 11 batters in 9 2/3 innings. Anderson is posting 10.2 strikeouts per nine innings out of the bullpen and his strikeouts-to-walk ratio has jumped to 2.8. 

There's no doubt Anderson will have a future on the mound in the majors. Whether he's starting games or relieving -- possibly as the Giants' closer -- is yet to be determined.

Logan Webb, Pitcher 

Webb came into the year as the Giants' fastest rising pitching prospect. He then had a 2.00 ERA with Richmond after the first month of the season, but was suspended 80 games for PEDs. 

The 22-year-old breezed through the minors upon his return and was called up to the Giants on Aug. 17. He's looked like a future ace at times, but also has had moments where he's seemed overmatched.

Webb has struggled with his command in the past and is dealing with the same issues in the bigs. He only has lasted at least five innings in two of his five starts so far. That doesn't mean he can't lead this staff one day, though. 

For now, the Giants can deal with Webb's shortcomings. He has the repertoire and tenacity to stay in the rotation for a long, long time.