Joe Panik was the San Francisco Giants first-round pick in the 2011 MLB draft. Many analysts scoffed at the pick because Panik didn’t have any outstanding physical attributes that made him stand out among the other prospects in 2011.
Generally speaking, first-round draft picks are primarily made up of five tool players that ooze baseball talent. They make scouts drool. After hearing the Giants’ pick, labeled a reach by many, the MLB draft announcers joked about how many pages down their draft board they had to go to find Panik’s name.
The joke will be on them when Panik is helping the San Francisco Giants defend their 2012 World Series title.
Panik is often an overlooked prospect because he doesn’t have the coveted five tools. He doesn’t make the scouts drool, but the bottom line is that the kid can flat out play ball.
His work ethic has been praised by previous coaches, including his former coach at St. John’s University who has said about Panik that “he epitomizes what you want in a ballplayer. He comes to play every day. He really understands what he needs to do to get better. You don’t have to tell Joe Panik twice. He knows.”
Not drafted out of high school, Panik went on to St. John’s and proved he was worthy of being given the chance to follow in his childhood idol, Derek Jeter’s, footsteps.
Before leaving St. John’s, he left his mark in the school’s record books: ranked No.2 all-time in batting average with .370, No.5 all-time in home runs with 25, No.3 all-time in RBI with 157 and No.4 all-time in runs scored with 164.
He may not be a five tool player, but he has the luxury of being called a “pure hitter.”
In baseball, that is one of the best compliments you can ever receive. The names you think about when you hear the words "pure hitter" are names like Tony Gwynn, Pete Rose, Wade Boggs, Stan Musial, Rod Carew and Ted Williams. When calling someone a “pure hitter” it can’t be taken lightly.
After Panik was drafted, he signed very fast in order to get straight to work—another example of his excellent work ethic.
He started his career in short season Single-A with Salem-Keizer, and continued to tear the cover off the ball. He batted .341 and went on to win the Northwest League MVP award.
The Giants sent him to the Arizona Fall League where he played side-by-side with the likes of Mike Trout and Bryce Harper. For his efforts in the AFL, he was named to the AFL Rising Stars game.
In 2012, Panik spent the season with the San Jose Giants, and experienced a bit of a let down after his 2011 campaign. But it should be noted that not many players could have repeated the type of season he had in 2011.
Regardless, he still put up solid numbers, hitting .297 over 130 games. He played again this winter in the AFL, hitting .205 through 20 games.
What can we expect from Panik in the future?
Panik will inevitably get another spring training invite in 2013.
He is already considered to be the most major-league ready middle infielder in the Giants organization. Many think he projects as a second baseman in the major leagues, but if Brandon Crawford continues to have offensive woes, he may challenge him at the shortstop position.
Although he projects to end up at second base, his glove is definitely serviceable at the shortstop position, as he has a career fielding percentage of .969. He may never win a gold glove at the position, but what he lacks on defense will be made up offensively.
Crawford is a smooth-fielding shortstop, but he is practically an automatic out in the Giants lineup. He might be hearing Panik’s footsteps as early as 2013 spring training.
Offensively, Panik tends to make solid contact, and have very productive at bats. He works the counts into his favor and gets on base. He has a very fluid and pretty swing, which looks effortless. He is considered a gap-to-gap hitter and has some pop—he will project to hit about 15 to 20 home runs at the big-league level.
Panik will be a top of the lineup hitter, eventually settling in the two hole.
Don’t be surprised if Panik really starts turning some heads in spring training.
He is already on the brink of breaking into the big leagues, as he only ranks behind Gary Brown on the Giants’ top prospects list as a position player. He will ultimately start the season in Double-A, but look for him to be quickly promoted to Triple-A, with hopes that he joins the big leagues sometime after the All-Star break.
Joe Panik will go on to have the best major league career of any player in the Giants’ farm system right now.
He will be called up to replace the light-hitting Crawford at shortstop, but expect Panik to eventually settle in at second base and be an All-Star caliber player for years to come.
He will immediately adapt to the higher level of play due to his instincts and his offensive skill set.