The San Francisco Giants selected St. John's shortstop Joe Panik with the No. 29 overall pick in last month's draft. At the time of the pick, the consensus was that the Giants repeated their overdraft of last June when they tabbed speedy outfielder Gary Brown out of Cal State Fullerton at No. 24. Only time will tell on both accounts, but the early results suggest the Giants may go 0-for-2.
While Brown is performing statistically in the California League, scouts still have major questions about his bat and are still believing he's all runner and a fourth outfielder who may develop a good enough hit tool to start some games because of his above-average defensive range. "He might be (Scott) Podsednik. Maybe."
Panik, a left-handed batter, is built well at 6-feet, maybe 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds and moves smoothly around the bases with average, maybe a tick above average speed. He doesn't have an extra gear but gets to top speed in a hurry.
In the field he shows good actions but doesn't appear to have the range to make up for a below-average arm, which likely means he ends up at second base. His throws are accurate.
At the plate, Panik makes good, consistent contact with a much-shortened swing and it appears he's eliminated some of the stiff lead arm that restricted his swing in college.
He starts with his feet spread a little more than shoulder width apart, and open very slightly. His hands are low, close to his body and just about even with his back shoulder, reminisce of Phillies second baseman Chase Utley. But the swing is level and lacks the bat speed of someone that hits for more than moderate power.
He stayed back well versus a left-handed starter Friday night for Short-season Salem-Keizer of the Northwest League, and went with the first pitch at which he swung, hitting a sharp ground ball to third. He ended up going hitless in four trips to the plate and was out on his front foot in his final three plate appearances, though party of that was the steady diet of breaking stuff he saw. I just expected a little better showing of discipline and consistent mechanics for a college draftee against a poor set of arms the Everett AquaSox tossed out there.
He did display an ability to square up pitches in batting practice, evidence of good hand-eye coordination, but doesn't get leverage and loft, even on balls he covers well, limiting his home-run potential. He is selective, however, and didn't chase anything -- and a scout after the game told me that's normal for Panik -- which is a good sign because he'll have to hit for average and get on base to have a chance to play regularly.
It sounds like a cop out -- even to me -- but Panik looks the part of a utility player with no standout tool and just as many weaknesses as strengths. He is sound fundamentally, however, and should see the big leagues in some capacity two or three years down the road. I imagine he could see some time in the outfield in Double-A or Triple-A to increase his value to the Giants and improve his chances of reaching the show.