Joe Panik is a kid who caught lightning in a bottle in 2014. He was lucky enough to be in a Giants organization that desperately needed help at second base. Marco Scutaro showed no signs of coming back and the players the Giants had in place were, well lets just say they weren't inspiring confidence. He didn't exactly make a huge immediate splash with the big club, but down the stretch his glove was solid and his bat was proving to be pretty clutch.
For the casual fan, he seemingly came out of nowhere last year when he grabbed the second base job and made it his. But for the intense Truefan you could almost see it coming.
For that 99.999% of the world that is not completely OBSESSED with baseball, it is understandable that you might have missed the rise of Joe Panik. For those of you that have the same affliction as myself, you might have noticed that in his first year of professional baseball, in the short season Northwest League playing in the Giants farm system for the Salem-Kaiser Volcanoes, Joe Panik was nothing short of amazing! He batted .341 with an on base percentage of .401 and a slugging pct of .467, he was named a post season All-Star of the league and was the Northwest League's Most Valuable Player. Not bad for your first year in pro ball. While his performance dipped a little in 2012 and a little more again in 2013, that was against stiffer competition as he moved up the ranks in the minors, so no biggie. But he had sort of fallen off the radar. That is perhaps why other young players were getting a shot at filling that whole the Giants had at second base. But 2014 was shaping up nicely for him. As everyone else got their shot he just continued to improve and focus and in May of 2014 he was named the PCL player of the week. His final minor league stats for the year show him batting .321 with an OPS of .829. when you role all those bits of info together and there was no reason not to give him a chance to show what he could do.
He was a natural fit at second base for the Giants. He was solid defensively and was showing he won't go fishing outside of the strike zone. Those two facts made it possible for the Giants to make necessary moves. One of the most important but almost unnoticed moves was getting Hunter Pence out of the 2 hole and back into a middle of the lineup spot where he could do the most with his at bats and be a little more of a force. He wasn't blowing up the National League but he had good bat control and was showing he was smart enough that he could fill a role like the number two spot in the order. Outs can be OK in that slot if you've got a guy on base to move into scoring position, and Joe Panik was providing what are commonly called good outs. So even if his batting average wasn't something fans were noticing, Bochy could see the good that he was doing. As he settled in and got the feel that it might just be his job to lose, his stats improved and we all know how it ended for the Giants in 2014. He might not have been the driving force without whom all is lost, but when you sneak in as a Wild Card, only to go on and win it all, every single player has to be acknowledged for what he brought to help get them there. He also just happened to be the winner of the Moment of the Year for the 2014 postseason for his play in Game 7.
If anybody is out there watching his Spring training and worried, please take a look at his Spring stats from the previous couple of years and try not to worry. Apparently he doesn't get out of the blocks real fast, but I feel pretty good about him as the second baseman for the 2015 Giants and if you don't relax and go look at his stats.