Saturday, June 21, 2014

Thoughts on Joe Panik

Joe Panik got the call to the major leagues today!  To make room on the 25 man roster, Juan Perez is being optioned to Fresno.  To make room on the 40 man roster, Jake Dunning is getting the DFA.  The move makes a lot of sense.  Panik has been on a sustained hot streak for Fresno that showed no signs of abating.  He basically had nothing left to prove there unless you want to see more power out of him, but it is doubtful that he will ever be a significant power hitter.  The Giants current MLB options at 2B were just not getting the job done and the current losing streak left them needing a shot in the arm.  The Giants need to make a decision about trading for a 2B at the trade deadline.  This gives them a month to evaluate whether Panik is the guy to take them down the stretch or not.  If it turns out Panik is not quite ready, they still have 3 future options on him.  He will definitely be ready or washed out by that time.

Joe Panik was a controversial first round draft pick by the Giants in the 2011 draft at #25 overall.  He was a college SS for at St. John's who was widely seen as a future 2B.   Scouting dogma says you just don't draft those types in the first round.  The Giants insisted they were drafting him as a SS.  Here are Panik's stat lines for his 3 college seasons:

2009  .332/.426/.513, 5 HR, 29 BB, 25 K, 187 AB.
2010  .374/.477/.621, 10 HR, 38 BB, 17 K, 227 AB.
2011  .394/509/.642, 10 HR, 44 BB, 24 K, 226 AB.

You can usually take college BA's with a grain of salt, but Panik's secondary stats showed a somewhat unusual phenomenon in that he walked almost twice as many times as he struck out over his last 2 seasons at St. Johns.  Since Panik was drafted, the Giants have selected a number of other players with similar K and BB profiles leading me to suspect that the Giants do run an active statistical department and are willing to be innovative with it.  Undervalued commodity?  Moneyball?  It does not seem to be so much the walk rate that they are looking at or necessarily the K rate by itself, but the ratio of BB/K that they deem to be an indicator of future success.

Panik signed immediately and was sent to Salem-Keizer for the Short Season.  He got off to a rousing start with a line of .341/.401/.467, 6 HR, 28 BB, 25 K, 270 AB.  Notice again the reversed K/BB.

He was rewarded with an assignment to the Arizona Fall League, usually reserved for top AA and AAA prospects.  He again hit well:  .324/394/.473, 2 HR, 9 BB, 10 K, 93 AB.  In a small sample, the K/BB was essentially 1.

Next season Panik started off in High A San Jose, an aggressive assignment for his first full pro season.  He got off to a slow start, but turned it on in the last 2 months and fell just short of the .300 BA mark.  I remember the countdown to the end of the season to see if he would make it in my Down on the Farm segments.  His final season line:  .297/.368/.402, 7 HR, 58 BB, 54 K, 535 AB.  Again, note the BB/K slightly greater than 1.  He was again sent to the AFL where he hit just .205 in 78 AB but walked 10 times against 7 K's.  Remember this was at the end of his first full pro season of playing every day for 5 months straight.

2013 found him in AA Richmond, a place of fear and doom for many a Giants hitting prospect.  I can count the number of Giants hitting prospects who have thrived in the Eastern League on one hand and still have fingers left over!  He started off OK, but went into a prolonged mid-season slump, coming part way back near the end of the season:  .257/.333/.347, 4 HR, 57 BB, 68 K,  522 AB.  For the first time in his career, Panik had more K's than BB's but by a remarkably small margin.  Some observers were also non-plussed by the low power output.  To make matters worse in many eyes, he was moved off SS to 2B as had long been predicted.

The Giants felt his performance in the pitching friendly EL was good enough to warrant a promotion to AAA Fresno.  He again started off a bit slow, but not for long. Since the first couple of weeks of the season, he has seemingly had more multiple hit games than not and has produced a steadily climbing BA:  .321/.382/.447, 5 HR, 27 AB, 33 K, 293 AB.

So, Joe Panik's time has come.  This is the moment of truth for the Giants taking a risk on him in the 2011 draft and for Yeshaya Goldfarb and the stats department.  Will Joe Panik be one of those prospects who hits out of the gate and never looks back, or will he be one who needs a few hundred AB's or so to get his feet on the ground? Unless the Giants precipitous slide continues, he will need to hit the ground running to avoid being replaced by a trade deadline acquisition.

Just for fun, I ran a ranking of MLB 2B by BB/K.  There were 6 with ratios greater than 0.7 with the top number 0.89.  Here's the list:

1. Jose Altuve
2. Dustin Pedroia
3. Robinson Cano
4. Brian Dozier
5. Daniel Murphy
6. Brian Roberts.

I also ranked all hitters in MLB by the same metric.  There were 12 with ratios of 1.00 or greater.  I guess it is not too surprising that 3 of those 12 are current Oakland A's and 1 is a former Athletic.

My closest comps out of all this for what I think Joe Panik can be are a LH Dustin Pedroia playing in a bigger home ballpark or Daniel Murphy, who has been discussed as a possible deadline trade target.


  1. I was fine with the Adrianza/Hicks band-aid, until the wheels fall off or a trade opened up. But it will be fun to see Panik get some at bats, and maybe they think why trade if Panik is ready now.

  2. DocB, great write up. It would be great if Panik could step in and claim the 2B job. I think we are all rooting for him, but the trade deadline is looming.

  3. I should have included in the post that Panik missed most of spring training 2013 with a hammy and it probably was not fully healed until well into his AA season, which may account for his relatively anemic numbers there in addition to the usual pitcher's league caveats.