Wednesday, December 19, 2012

DrB's 2013 Giants Top 50 Prospects #2: Joe Panik

Joe Panik, SS.  DOB: 10/30/1990.  6'1", 190 lbs. B-L, T-R

High A:  .297/.368/.402, 7 HR, 27 2B, 4 3B, 7 HR, 10 SB, 58 BB, 54 K in 535 AB.
AFL:      .205/.295/.269, 4 SB, 10 BB, 7 K's in 78 AB.

Joe Panik was ranked #2 last year also.  While many of this year's rankings put him lower, he is another guy who I think had an underrated season last year and deserves to maintain his position.  Expectations may have been running a bit too high after he put up a .341 BA in the NWL after being drafted in the first round in 2011. Panik got off to a slow start in the Cal League hitting just .221 in April, but from the first of May on, he hit a robust .312 capped by a .379 in the month of August.

The Cal League is, rightfully, known as an extreme hitter's league, but San Jose is actually a neutral stadium to even one that favors pitching.  It especially tends to suppress LH power as there is a prevailing breeze that blows in from RF, from what I've read(I've never attended a game there myself).  Panik hit .268 at home against .324 on the road in 2012.  His L-R splits were equal.  Lastly, he maintained his amazing reverse K/BB even while hitting just .205 in the AFL.

The biggest controversy surrounding Panik is whether he is a true SS or not. The Giants continue to insist he can play the position and requested that he play exclusively there in the AFL.  Giants Director of Player Development, Fred Stanley, addressed the subject in an interview with Joe Ritzo on  He said that Panik has an accurate arm and makes plays on all the balls he gets to.  He expressed confidence that Panik could stay at SS but also said that the final decision regarding position would be made in the future by Bruce Bochy and Brian Sabean. I saw him play several times this year and have to say he looks more like a future 2B to my untrained eye.  Personally, I don't think it matters all that much.  It is somewhat harder to find players who can stick at SS, but 2B in MLB is not exactly a Murderer's Row right now either.  I think Panik will hit well enough to be an asset at 2B if that's his MLB future.

He should move up to AA in 2013 with the usual challenges that will bring.  He is 1 full year younger than Gary Brown at the same stage of development for what that's worth.  Looking ahead, he should be fully ready for the majors when Scutaro's contract is up.  Whether Brandon Crawford remains established as the SS by then remains to be seen.  If secondary stats mean anything at all, you've got to believe he will ultimately hit and hit well through a fine MLB career, an nice return on a #29 overall draft pick.


  1. Was this his second time in the AFL?

    How did he do compared with his first?

    1. Yes, second, but he did a lot worse. Small samples, plus more importantly, his walk and K-rates and ratios were still good, just bad BABIP luck in my opinion.

    2. I think that is where scouts can be useful, to go beyond BABIP.

      In any case, I don't know where he should rank, but I can't wait to see how he will do in AA.

      It's the same with the team.

      You're my team (in the sense you're the team I root for, not in the sense that you belong to me - the team belongs to everyone), but where you rank among the other Giants teams of the past and of the future, it's up to you to determne that on the playing field. I will accept what the team or a player is, and we only know after it's over.

  2. Panik keeps up his 90% contact rate he should be fine. Love the BB/K ratio, love the average joe get it done. Love the Giants stubborn not moving him off the position. And when his name was announced at the draft and the analysts had no idea how to react, I loved that too. I think Panik might be better prepped than Brown for the big bad Eastern. Its definitely a stern test. He's not a utility player yet! Seems like that label is what folks really want to pin on him. In the minor league ball discussion Mike Fontenot was brought up. Panik has much better contact rates than Fontenot did. Will the gap power fill in? That could be a big determination on first division starter/2nd/utility guy. Just like with Brown, I think peoples standards and expectations are out of wack. He hit pretty well in the California league. He certainly didn't dominate it, but I strongly disagree with the ding the college guy for not tearing through the league expectation that seems to be standard. Keep an eye on Kelton Wong and Levi Michael - we have easy comps to see which teams evaluate the best here, with the caveat of draft order.

    1. I agree. Great contact rate bodes well for his future in the majors, as well as his BB/K ratio. He just needs to keep on doing it at each new level. I think he's the right type of prospect to do well in the EL, where power is damped down a lot, at a lot of parks, he won't change the way he bats because power is not a huge part of his value proposition.

      I saw that Fontenot comparison. I almost choked reading that. They got the wrong guy, he's more like Theriot, in terms of how he did in the minors for contact and walks. Obviously, don't have the same speed, but we're not looking for that from Panik.

      However, while Theriot had the good contact rate and walk rate, his batting lines were never anything to write home about, even his AA and AAA seasons. Panik has hit a whole lot better than Theriot did, and I would expect that to keep up as he rises, and I would think that he does better than Theriot at the major league level, hitting, which would be good to have from a hitter.

      Yes, Wong and Michael are good comparison points since I think they were the other two names that popped up when Panik was drafted, MIs.

      Panik is not a prospect you should expect to tear through the league, though that would be nice. His talent level is not been shown to be that high. But because he hit so well in the NWL, people were treating him as a top prospect type that rushes up the majors, like Posey or Bumgarner did.

      They don't realize that even players like Chase Utley and Ryan Howard did not rush up the minors, did not dominate at every level. Not to say that Panik is at their level, but more so that stumbles along the way does not crater the prospect's standing, particularly if his peripherals still looks good. And his look great, just like it did for Sandoval and Sanchez when they were in San Jose, Belt too.

      Still, with talent lacking, he'll need to prove himself every year, he's going to have his prospect warts to go with his good. But I still think he can do that for us, be a steady hitting 2B with OK to good defense. And that is all we need from him to keep the roster cheaper and allowing us to keep some of our high-priced home grown players.

  3. I totally agree that expectations for him should not be diminished by his 2012 season. People treat him like he's a top prospect, but I find that most people confuse "top prospect" with "top prospect for the team". No Top 100 Prospect list includes him. That tells you a lot of what most prospect experts think of him and his talent level.

    That said, he looks like he can be a steady starter for us at 2B, and perhaps better given how good his bat is. And that IS great value in the back of the first round.

    I would note in support that a study by Mayo a few years back looked at the strikeout rate by park across the minors and he found that San Jose's park was an extreme strikeout park, supporting your notion that it is the rare pitcher's park in a hitter's league. Bowker was interviewed and he noted that the backdrop made it hard to pick up pitches, making hitters swing and miss more often. Why the team don't fix that and help their hitters (or more importantly, so that they don't get into bad habits changing their batting mechanics to adjust, plus for the pitchers so that they don't get too overconfident about their true talents and abilities) I don't know.

    All the experts thought that Panik was a future 2B, but they also felt that Joseph was a sure 1B as well, and he did really well for us as a catcher. Still, I think generally the experts got things right with Panik, I've not heard good word about his work at SS. I think the Giants are keeping him there in order to maximize his trade value, should they ever need to cross that bridge.

    1. It's also worth noting that even 1st round picks fail to reach the majors. Even if Panik makes it to the majors as a utility player, that's better than a good chunk of players who were picked in the early rounds. To be honest, we've been spoiled with the 1st rounders the Giants have drafted in recent years. That said, my hope is that he'll end up becoming a quality player at 2B a la Scutaro as Scutaro inevitably transitions to more of a utility role.

    2. First round picks, heck, start with first pick overall! My draft study showed that even a large percentage of the first pick overall never even made the majors, and roughly only 45% of them turned out to be a good starter in the majors. Back where we got Panik, the odds are only roughly 10% that he'll be a good starter. So yes, even if he were a good utility player, that's more value than most teams get from that far back in the draft.

      Yes, Giants fans have been spoiled by Sabean and gang, most teams do not do that well, but they hit the trifecta with Lincecum, BUmgarner, Posey, odds are that only one of the three would have turned out to be good, and not only are all three good, Lincecum and Posey have been great.

      Yes, Scutaro is a good model, though hopefully Panik will become a quality player in his 20's and not like Scutaro, finally make it in his 30's.

  4. Whether Brandon remains established at the SS...

    That's an interesting commment.

    Based on what they have done so far, where would you rate our young core of Pablo, Posey, Belt and Crawford with other MLB teams?

    1. Well, if you are going to isolate it to just the core of position players, it's kind of averageish, with the possibility of getting a lot better fast if Belt and Crawford continue to improve offensively.

      If you combine these 4 players with the pitching, the Giants have as good a homegrown core as any team in baseball.

    2. I don't know all the other teams out there, so I could be missing something, but I consider Pablo and Posey to be elites and Belt to already being good, so I think of them as more than average, whether homegrown or not.

      And if you go solely by homegrown, I have to think of them as among the best in the league, not many teams have two players capable of 900-1000+ OPS, let alone homegrown.

      Belt hitting as well as he did in the minors would give us a great middle of lineup, again, still can't imagine any other team's middle of lineup that is comparable so I hedge by saying that's among the best for certain, just from what I know about the talent to hit .900+ OPS. Not many are over .900, and having two is above average, I would think, and having three would be elite, among the top, again, I would think, particularly in today's reduced offensive era.

  5. With just the core position players, based on what you expect from Belt and Crawford this year, where will we rank, considering the age factor (I forgot to mention this in the original question - if that makes any difference)?

    1. That would take a significant amount of research of every team's roster. I'm not sure what to expect from Belt and Crawford anyway. I am cautiously optimistic that they will both improve with an outside chance that Belt could have a breakout year. I think it's possible that Sandoval might really explode too.

      Let's just say I'm quite satisfied with the Giants young position players and ecstatic over their overall homegrown core.

    2. Age can always be a factor.

      To my points above, regardless of age and how acquired, I think we have a pretty good core set of hitters. I expect Belt to break out in the next season or two to make our core elite, regardless of age and how acquired.

      If you add in age, then I can't imagine that many other teams would compare with our core. Again, hitters like Pablo and Posey are not freely available, very rare. If Belt reaches their heights, and I think he is capable of making that leap in 1-2 seasons, there are few if any teams with three hitters capable of 900+ OPS.

      Then if you add in homegrown, I can't imagine any other team having a better young and homegrown core. Again, I have not kept up on the other teams (fantasy baseball is great for that apparently), so I might be missing a group of young homegrown hitters,

      I think both Belt and Crawford should improve in 2013. They have made good progress both seasons, but still acclimating to the majors. The more important point to me is that they made substantive progress each season and showed improvements as the seasons progressed, though with ups and downs. The key to 2013 is avoiding those downs, and I would think that both will still have some struggles in 2013, just less, making 2014 their likely breakout seasons, though you never know, one or both could also breakout in 2013.

      He's not talked of as much, probably because of his great defense, but I think Crawford is capable of great seasons for a shortstop offensively. He's been amazingly good with his contact rate in the majors, way better than minors, and has been more advanced than Belt in performance and growth, IMO. Once he figures out how to be consistent with each AB, the power should come out, and that to me is an elite thing to have at SS.

      And DrB and I agree that Sandoval could bust out. He made the audacious comment that Pablo could reach 40 HR, but when I researched it, I had to agree, he has hit at a rate at which 30 HR is not only possible, but probable once he can play a whole season healthy (no more hamate bones to break!), and it would not take much of a lucky season to reach 40.

    3. Lastly, I agree with DrB's last statement.

      As I noted, great hitters are hard to find, but we potentially have 3 homegrown players capable of great things offensively. Pablo and Posey were why I was arguing on-line that the complaints about Sabean would cease soon, as they developed, then especially once Belt and Buster busted out like they did in 2010.

      Fans don't seem to understand that even the best lineups have weak hitters in them. Or that hitters like Pablo and Posey are elite (regardless of position and especially so considering). As good as our pitching has been, I think our offense could be just as elite when they hit their peak, and they are still on the rise, and I'm still hopeful of Brown joining them and really sealing the deal on the best homegrown lineup in baseball. They could be a monster lineup starting in 2014 and the final vestiges of the Sabean Naysayers would have been finally extinguished because then their arguments would all be wrong, we would have the pitching, we would have the hitting, we would have the fielding, and the Giants would be catching up really fast with the A's in the number of Bay Area World Championships (only need two more to tie: I had thought that we were capable of at least one and probably two once Posey broke out, but I envisioned it spread over the 2010 Decade, not twice in the first three seasons. All of the above is why I've been saying since the late 2000's that the Giants will be known as the Team of the 2010 Decade).

    4. What is amazing is that Belt, Crawford and Panda were not first round picks at all.

      Brown was a low first round pick.

      Buster was the only high pick, out of the position players we talk about here.

      Thta's rebuilding with integrity - the 'we're not the Marlins' way. No tanking. At least with position players.

      Including pitchers, that's a total of 2 high first round picks - Posey and Lincecum (Cain and Bumgarner were mid first rounders).

      I wonder how many teams have more high picks and how they compare with us.

    5. Posey was #5, both Lincecum and Bumgarner were #10, and I think Cain was #25, so not really a mid-rounder. So far, at least in recent drafts, we were either in the top 10 or the bottom 10, of the first round, with Stratton being the closest, in my eyes, of being a mid-rounder in the first. Of course, also, Wheeler was #6.

      If you want to compare, I did that recently in a blog post, as it occurred to me while writing about Giants and KC: the Giants were not the only team that could have drafted Lincecum, Bumgarner, Posey. Royals, Rays, Orioles, and Pirates also could have drafted the three players before the Giants did. With that haul, they clearly did the best, though the Rays love Longoria and the Orioles should like Weiters. I think those were the 2006-8 drafts, if you want to look at specifics. But I'm sure KC is regretting picking Hochever over Lincecum and Rays Tim Beckham over Posey and similarly for Bumgarner.

  6. This off season, we've seen 3 (or 4) trades of top prospects in exchange for established (not great, just established) veterans. Have GM's suddenly decided that top prospects do not always equal to top major league players, and are willing to trade upside for known quantities?

    If Texas were to offer their top SS prospect for Crawford, right now, would you trade Crawford? Last year, this would have been a no-brainer. The rest of the country, and probably most of the people around here probably think it's a no brainer still. Having watched Crawford play,and seeing him progress this year, I am not so sure. (Lesson learned from Brandon Wood/Dallas Macpherson)

    1. Take it in a heartbeat but that's not going to happen. Jurickson Profar's floor is Brandon Crawford defensively and could potentially be an All-Star bat. Texas doesn't need a present day SS or 2B as they have Kinsler and Andrus, both better than Crawford and both locked up for 2 and 5 years respectively. Plus Texas could probably get more on the open market than just Brandon Crawford