The Giants announced a series of roster moves to reporters today, including Maria I. Guardado of MLB.com. Right-hander Sean Hjelle has been recalled from Triple-A Sacramento, while outfielder LaMonte Wade Jr. has been activated off the injured list. Sam Long and Mauricio Llovera were both sent to Triple-A to create roster space.
Hjelle was a second round selection of the Giants in the 2018 draft and has been working his way up the minor league ladder since then. His promotion is something of an early birthday present, as he turns 25 years old tomorrow. The 6’11” right-hander was ranked #5 in the club’s system by Baseball America back in 2019, though he has slid a bit in those rankings as he has struggled with higher levels of competition.
In 2019, he reached Double-A for the first time, throwing 25 1/3 innings with a 6.04 ERA. After the minor leagues were canceled in 2020, Hjelle returned to Double-A in 2021 and fared much better, putting up an ERA of 3.15 in 14 starts, along with a 25.2% strikeout rate, 6.9% walk rate and 54.6% ground ball rate. In Triple-A last year, however, his ERA shot up to 5.74. He was still getting grounders at a 54.1% clip, but saw the strikeouts dip down to 14.1% and the walks bump up to 11.7%. This year, he’s made five Triple-A starts and has improved those results somewhat, getting his ERA to 4.37 and his walks down to 5.1%, along with a 54.8% grounder rate. He’s still not racking up Ks though, with a 14.3% rate on the year. Whenever he gets into a game, it will be his major league debut.
Wade is coming off an excellent breakout campaign in 2021, where he hit 18 home runs and slashed .253/.326/.482, 117 wRC+. This year, he’s yet to make his season debut due to inflammation and a bone bruise in his left knee. After a seven-game rehab assignment, he’s now back on the roster and should slot into regular action in the outfield next to Mike Yastrzemski, with Luis Gonzalez, Joc Pederson, Austin Slater, Darin Ruf and Mauricio Dubon also in the mix.
As for Long and Llovera, Guardado’s tweet says that Long was optioned and Llovera was returned to Triple-A. The language different could be significant. Under the 2022 health and safety protocols, the commissioner’s office has the sole discretion to determine whether a team has been sufficiently impacted by COVID to call up “substitute” players. If granted permission, the team can then return those substitutes back to Triple-A (and, if he was not previously on the 40-man, off the roster entirely) without utilizing a minor league option or passing the player through waivers. Llovera was selected to the club’s 40-man roster a week ago amid a run of positive tests among Giants’ players. The fact that he has been “returned” to Triple-A, suggests that he is no longer on the roster. However, Llovera’s transactions tracker at MLB.com says he was optioned, meaning it’s possible he still has that roster spot.