Sean Hjelle, who is tall. Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
It’s late May, and it’s about that time: Start dreaming of prospects and the Giants’ future.
Of course, this year’s version comes without the backdrop of a struggling major league team that gives the future a rosier tint than the present.
As Major League Baseball tries to kick off a season that does not wait for the coronavirus to fully abate, San Francisco weighs what a roster and taxi squad would look like in a year that likely would not include minor league baseball. A few top prospects would find their way into the shuffle to get reps instead of entirely missing a season.
One of those could be Sean Hjelle, the 6-foot-11 skyscraper who threw two perfect innings in spring training 1.0.
“I was really proud of Sean, I thought he handled himself real well,” Kyle Haines, the Giants’ farm director, told Marty Lurie this weekend. “He’s obviously really advanced for a younger pitcher. A lot of times in the minor leagues you see some very green and raw ability, but Sean has always been a little more polished. I thought he had a great spring. … And I don’t think he’s too far off from hopefully getting out there on the field at Oracle Park. A lot of these young guys, there’s been a lot of excitement to see them out there. I think you guys got a glimpse of why in watching Sean and Joey [Bart].
“To get my own baseball fix, I watched Heliot [Ramos]’s homer the other day he hit in that night game vs. the Rockies. … Put a big smile on my face just looking at it. I think we’re all really itching to just see some baseball in general.”
Bart and Ramos are two of the jewels of a system that is on the upswing, while Hjelle is regarded as a notch below. But perhaps the most hyped prospect is just 18.
Marco Luciano may have the biggest upside, a Dominican Republic product who could become the young-phenom superstar that has become more prominent in today’s game. If the Giants have to decide upon a roster/taxi squad without a minor league net to catch the rest of the prospects, Luciano would make for an interesting decision.
“Marco, he’s very talented, there’s no doubt about that,” Haines said on KNBR. “We’re excited about him, we’re excited to see him grow. I know the Giants fans are really hungry for their next wave of homegrown stars that see them grow up from kids into veteran players and do many great things along the way. I know that I personally sometimes have to remind myself how young he really is.
“It sounds really silly, but someone like a Sean Hjelle … he played at Kentucky and the SEC for years and played in stadiums and high-profile events. I look at Marco, and he’s only played a few games ever in front of fans and under lights. He played in the Arizona League, which doesn’t have fans, and before that in the Dominican growing up, they don’t play quite the organized ball we do. Sometimes I have to temper my own expectations of him at least in 2019-20, maybe ’21. And just kind of let him grow as a kid grows. But it’s really hard not to get excited about what the possibility is with him.”
Another possibility? A position change. While Luciano is the obvious potential heir to Brandon Crawford’s throne, the Farhan Zaidi model entails flexibility.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if Marco did kind of organically learn some new positions,” Haines said. “But nowadays with the shifts on the infield, a shortstop naturally plays a little second base, a third baseman naturally plays a little shortstop, a second baseman naturally plays a little on the left side of the infield anyway. Sometimes just by playing shortstop or second base, you can learn multiple positions just by shifting around.”