The 2018 Major League Baseball Draft is this week. Sean Hjelle, the star pitcher for the Kentucky Wildcats, will be a high draft pick when the festivities kick off during the first week of June.
Unfortunately, Hjelle may be a casualty of a ridiculously strong crop of young pitchers, and may just miss out on being a first-round draft pick.
Hjelle, is an impressive presence on the mound. At 6’11”, he has the attention of every batter before he even toes the rubber. Hjelle burst onto the scene last season when he went 11-4 with a 3.89 ERA. He was named SEC Pitcher of the Year, the first time this award was given to a UK baseball player. Hjelle received First-Team All-SEC honors in 2017, as well as Second-Team All-America honors.
Coming into this season, a lot was expected of the young man from Minnesota. Hjelle went 9-6 on the season and struck out 91 batters, including a 13 strikeout performance against Oakland back in February. In fact, he finished the 2018 season with an even stronger 3.44 ERA.
With such dominant stuff and imposing size, you’d think Hjelle would be a shoe in to be a first-round draft pick this June. So why is his name not being mentioned as highly in scouting circles? Why is he falling out of most mock drafts?
It really has little to do with Hjelle, but more to do with the other talented college pitchers in this year’s draft.
Last year, 9 college pitchers, and 15 pitchers total were drafted in the 1st round. Look for a lot of the same in this year’s draft. Some of the best college prospects, just like Hjelle, play in the SEC.
The two-headed monster from Florida, Jackson Kowar and Brady Singer are virtual locks to go in the first-round. So are Ryan Rolison from Ole Miss and the likely No. 1 overall pick Casey Mize of Auburn.
While Hjelle will no doubt be selected high, the depth of pitching prospects in this year’s draft could push him into Round 2. Here’s hoping the big right-hander gets a call in the first-round.