On Saturday, fans got what they’ve been begging the Giants to do for almost a month now — second baseman Joe Panik was called up from Triple-A Fresno.
Panik was the first player the Giants drafted after winning the 2010 World Series (the 29th pick of June 2011 draft out of St. John’s).
Originally drafted as a shortstop, the Giants have been looking at Panik at second base for a while now.
Panik tore up of the Northwest League, hitting .341 in 69 games for Salem-Keizer. He hit .297 in 130 games at Class A San Jose, before hitting .257 last year in 137 games for Richmond in the pitcher-friendly Eastern League.
But in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, Panik has hit .321 with a .382 OBP, 5 home runs, 45 RBI in 74 games for Fresno.
Early in the year, fans weren’t clamoring for Panik. Second baseman Brandon Hicks wasn’t hitting great, but what he did hit, he hit hard — belting eight home runs in his first 41 games.
But since hitting his last home run on May 23, Hicks has just seven hits in 62 at-bats (that’s a .113 average to you and me).
And with other second base options (Joaquin Arias and Ehire Adrianza) not hitting much better, it BEGGED the question “Why not Joe Panik?”
After hemming and hawing for a couple of weeks with some pretty lame excuses, the Giants finally acquiesced and called up Panik on Saturday. Manager Bruce Bochy said he’ll get some consistent starts at 2B, beginning on Sunday.
To make room for Panik, the Giants optioned OF Juan Perez to Fresno (no shocker there) and they designated P Jake Dunning for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster (bit of a surprise there; I was looking at Erik Cordier).
Panik doesn’t bring the power that Hicks has shown. He has five home runs in 326 PA’s for Fresno this year in the hitter-friendly PCL. But has never hit more than seven home runs in any of his four minor-league seasons.
But he is a contact guy. He has 94 hits this season in Fresno against 33 strikeouts (Hicks has 33 hits to 72 strikeouts by comparison). And Panik has 27 walks. Over his minor league career he has 171 walks to 180 strikeouts in 410 games.
Think of him like a younger — much younger — Marco Scutaro.
Now, we get to see if those numbers translate to the big leagues. It doesn’t often. For every Buster Posey, the Giants have had their share of Charlie Culberson, Conner Gillaspie, Nick Noonan and Roger Kieschnick.
The other question is “how long will Panik remain with the Giants?”
Brandon Belt looked good taking BP in Arizona Friday. The thinking is he’ll start a rehab assignment soon, and he could be back with the club before the end of the month.
The Giants have a roster full of players who are out of options, meaning they can’t be sent to the minors without first passing through waivers. Juan Perez is the only position player to be sent to Fresno from the big-league roster this season, and he’s been shipped off to Fresno to make room for Panik.
What would the Giants do to make room for Belt, if it isn’t sending Panik back to Fresno?