Before the start of Saturday night’s game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, the San Francisco Giants made some moves to address their struggles at second base, as well as their 1-9 stretch over ten games to perhaps provide a spark to the club. Juan Perez was optioned to Triple-A Fresno (though he might get called back up later today, more on that later), Jake Dunning was designated for assignment, and prospect Joe Panik got the call up from Fresno. Panik was the first-round pick of the Giants in the 2011 Rule IV MLB Draft, and while it’s great that he’s getting the call, I’m sure more people would want more out of a potential helper than someone whose ceiling may be second-division utility infielder. Panik will be the twelfth player from the first round of the 2011 Draft to get playing time. Here are some notes on him from sites that ranked him within their Giants prospect rankings, MLB.com and John Sickels of SB Nation’s Minor League Ball.
“Panik (the #14 prospect in the SFG system) doesn’t have as high a ceiling as [Christian] Arroyo does, but he does have a high floor and should be a valuable utilityman if he doesn’t become a big league regular. He’s a career .290 hitter in the Minors but batted just .257 last year, which is more indicative of his potential in the Majors. Panik employs a contact-oriented line-drive approach that doesn’t yield much power but helps him get on base.
A shortstop in his first two pro seasons, Panik played primarily second base in 2013. While he has sure hands and was a steady defender at short, his average arm and quickness fit better at second. Panik could help San Francisco in 2014 if needed.” —MLB.com
“Seems likely to be a useful utility player to me, but there is still a chance he can be more than that. Still showing the contact hitting approach that sometimes correlates with unexpected offensive growth in late 20s.” —Minorleagueball.com, who ranked him as the Giants #13 prospect
MLB.com rated Panik’s tools as: Hit: 45 | Power: 30 | Run: 40 | Arm: 50 | Field: 55 | Overall: 45 with 50 being MLB average, so you can see the tools were not all rated as someone that will have a really long MLB career, but Giants fans hope Panik makes adjustments that held him down and emerge to being an everyday player that can help the team. This year, Panik put up a .321/.382/.447 in Fresno with five home runs and fourteen doubles in 326 plate appearances. He stole three bases, walked 8.3% of the time, and struck out 10.1%. Good numbers, and we know the Pacific Coast League is hitter-friendly, but it has been good to see the St. John’s product hold his own as he moved up through the Giants system. Panik should expect to get consistent playing time with Brandon Hicks struggling and Ehire Adrianza failing to provide consistent production on both sides of the ball, even though he’s done better in June.
To close, getting back to Perez, he could be brought back to the club if Angel Pagan is put on the 15-day DL today, as the Giants may not want to have three outfielders on their roster since Michael Morse will be out today with a sore back. The Giants will have the rubber match with the Diamondbacks starting at 1:10PM PST and will be competing with the USA-Portgual World Cup match that beings at 3:00PM PST.
The news that may have caught the ears of most of the San Francisco Giants fanbase willing to listen in early December was that if, per Giants management, Pablo Sandoval came to Spring Training in shape, then he would be rewarded with contract extension talks, as Pablo goes into his final year of team control. Sandoval will not be 28 until August of 2014, which will easily put him at the youngest of the free agent class of 3B going into the 2014 offseason. Who are the other members of the 2014 3B Free Agent class, you ask? Thanks to MLB Trade Rumors, I can tell you exactly which players:
Alberto Callaspo (32)
Jack Hannahan (35) – $4MM club option with a $2MM buyout
Chase Headley (31)
Donnie Murphy (32)
Nick Punto (37) – club/vesting option
Aramis Ramirez (37) – mutual option
Hanley Ramirez (31)
Pablo Sandoval (28)
Ty Wigginton (37)
There were reports Hanley Ramirez might be working on an extension with the Dodgers, and really unless he gets more injured in many more places, it’s hard to see the Dodgers not keeping HanRam. Chase Headley is either going to be long-termed by the Padres or traded for a package, because keeping him around for a supplemental draft pick off of a qualifying offer doesn’t make much sense to me (and that’s final! *wipes hands clean*). So your choices then are everything else. Want to try in-house? Joe Panik positional change? Probably to 2B more than 3B, so unlikely. Ryder Jones? Only 19, still a ways to go. Adam Duvall — can he hold his own at the 3B position while improving power and lowering K%? That’s left to be seen. Duvall may be the Giants’ strongest threat against Pablo to show he is replaceable as opposed to saying, “You know, Donnie Murphy would look pret-ty good in black and orange starting for us.”
A Pablo extension wouldn’t be the end-all for Duvall or Jones, you can’t have too much depth and it gives time for the young Ryder to develop through the system. The good thing about the Panda, which has been hinted at in the article title, is Pablo’s age. If Pablo goes into the offseason as a position player, he could be one of two or three players in their twenties that hits the market (number of players depends on if the Royals’ Billy Butler‘s club option gets picked up). Maybe Pablo’s best years are behind him because that’s when he was at his best physically and once he gets paid he won’t care about fitness. I don’t know. Pablo though, has still shown some use even in the last two years, which haven’t been his best days. 26 HR combined in those last two seasons combined is just one over the 25 he clubbed in 2009 and we’ve all been waiting for him to pass 30 since. His K% has held pretty steady in the 13% range throughout his career, a BABIP in the low .300’s — matching .301’s in ’12 and ’13, and mostly above average production in wRC+ every year but 2010. Everybody gets frustrated with Pablo because we’ve seen great things out of him and we blame his failures to meet expectations on his fat.
As difficult as it is, this saga of #FatChats and whatnots, I believe keeping Pablo around is the best move for the Giants here, and as long as Pablo is healthy (and skinny), I’m pretty sure he knows it, too. If he has someone supervising him in addition to his brother cooking for him — I don’t know why, but — I trust the process. I think the extension needs to get done otherwise the Giants could find themselves with a problem at the hot corner. To answer any questions, no, I’m not ready for Buster Posey at 3B. I like him at catcher until he and the Giants agree he’s had enough. Contract length and numbers I’ve seen floated around social media from fans are probably five years with fifteen-twenty million of average annual value being where it would land. I think the Giants could get it done in that lower range for now, but if Pablo explodes offensively in 2014 before a deal is done, you better believe twenty a year won’t be out of the question.
The future of the game and the future of the teams baseball fans have loved for years rest in the bats, gloves, and arms of a lot of these kids that are occupying the Minors and some even have knocked down the door into the national spotlight. People love rankings, so when it comes to ranking the future, it’s easy to see how people can get excited, as well as downright stupid, when these rankings come out. MLB.com released their rankings last night for the Top 100 prospects in baseball, and Baseball America came out with their rankings for the San Francisco Giants farm system this morning, so it’s given us some time to consider what the Giants farm has to offer. Since both these sites are free to access, I’ll post the pictures that give Giants fans what they’re looking for right here:
If you can’t read it because the font’s too darn small, that’s Kyle Crick at 86th, and Gary Brown at number 100. Not a huge surprise to a lot of people, given the hype of Crick we’ve been hearing throughout the year, and even validated by Fangraphs and SBNation rankings from December, and November, respectively. Gary Brown did not have a stellar first half to the year in Double-A Richmond and reports on him soured during that time.
This is Baseball America’s ranking, and here’s a another spot where Crick comes before Brown, but this one has Joe Panik and Chris Stratton before Brown! The Giants farm system is fascinating to me because it seems to be that Crick is the consensus #1 and then from there it’s a lot of cross-checking on strengths and weaknesses on the different guys within the system, which can understandably jumble up the list. Another cool point about this list:
In that list, Crick (#1), Stratton (#3), Blackburn (#6), and Mejia (#10) all are possible starters for High-A San Jose in 2013.
— Stuart Jones (@HeHitsItDeeeeep) January 30, 2013
Top picks for the Giants of 2009 (Brown), 2011 (Panik), and 2012 (Stratton) are all within the Top 5, so while none of them may be gracing the Top 10 of any league-wide national rankings, they are all projected for the moment to be of some use to the parent club, which is a credit to the scouts and decision makers within the organization. However, things don’t always go the way we expect them to, much like the front office may have when they decided to keep Brown and trade Zack Wheeler for old friend Carlos Beltran.
It’s a good idea not to get too overly invested in prospect rankings to the point where you are getting angry over something like Panik being #3 instead of #2 unless you are a prospect evaluator that has plenty of sources to double-check reports. Now, if you do want to become invested in this, take the reports in, ask questions to people in the industry, go to San Jose to catch some games, talk to some scouts to get some info, make some phone calls, and you’ll be on your way to making your own ranking, which is exactly why I don’t make my own rankings on prospects.
As for what’s next in prospect rankings, I’ll be waiting on Baseball Prospectus, as well as MLB.com to release their rankings of the Giants system like Baseball America did today so I have a better idea of some of the kids I might get to see over the course of Spring Training.