|Report Date:||March 14th, 2018|
Though the Southeastern Conference produced five first round arms in last June’s MLB Draft, it was Hjelle who earned conference Pitcher of the Year honors, going 11-4 for the Wildcats, with a 3.89 ERA and a 3.09 K:BB ratio. Against Texas Tech on Friday, Hjelle showed resilience after a rocky first frame, settling down and surrendering just two earned runs on five hits over seven innings, striking out six and walking one in the victory.
At 6’11”, it’s an understatement to say that Hjelle pitches downhill. Creating difficult angles for hitters from his high three-quarters arm slot, Hjelle consistently fills the strike zone with three different pitches. Hjelle locates his 91-to-93 mph fastball to the lower quadrants of the plate, setting up his hard curveball with 11-to-5 break. Thrown at 81-to-83 mph with plus depth, the curveball generates swings and misses as an out pitch. Hjelle seldomly used his change-up against the Red Raiders, but when he did, it flashed average with late fade. Hjelle repeats his delivery exceptionally well for a man of his size, contributing to his above average control.
Though still thin throughout his arms, chest and legs, Hjelle has gained 10 pounds of lean muscle year-over-year. If he continues to get more physical as he matures and gains a tick more velocity on his fastball, Hjelle has a ceiling of a mid-rotation starter.