Joe Panik: Speculating on 2B’s Fantasy Value

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Maybe you have Daniel Murphy on your team and are in need of a second baseman. Maybe you have second base covered, but are still struggling to fill your middle infield spot with Troy Tulowitzki out.

Ahat about Joe Panik? He’s red hot and likely available in your league.

As is the case with most fantasy free agents, there are strengths and weaknesses, so let’s take a look at those.

If you do add him, it’s likely that Panik will help you most in the batting average/on base percentage area.

Through August, he was hitting .309 with a .358 OBP in the Majors and was called up largely because he hit .321 with a .382 OBP in Triple-A Fresno.

Panik also has a line drive rate of right around 24 percent (Per Fangraphs) and through August, had only struck out 57 times between Triple-A and the Majors. Crazy things happen in baseball all the time, but if you put the bat on the ball and frequently get line drives, you’re going to get hits, and a lot of them.

I won’t say that he’ll repeat his August numbers and eclipse a .380 batting average in September, but .300 is not at all a crazy guess. Batting averages tend to slump when guys try to hit too many home runs, and I don’t imagine Panik swinging for the fences.

So, if we’re not worried about average, here’s a fairly simple transition. What will Joe Panik do when he gets on base? Obviously that depends a lot on his teammates and until about a week ago, I wouldn’t have projected him to score many runs. But then something happened.

Bruce Bochy moved Hunter Pence into more of an RBI spot and put Panik in the two-hole. So now, instead of relying on people like Gregor Blanco and Brandon Crawford to score runs, he’s on base when teammates such as Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, and Pence are batting. These are all guys who can drive the ball and allow Panik to score when he gets on.

Now, a few things could change his spot in the order.

  1. Panik slumps — Especially if it coincides with the team losing a few games.
  2. Pence slumps — It hasn’t happened so far and the Giants won the World Series in 2012 with Pence hitting fifth. But if he scuffles a little, Bochy may be inclined to move him up in front of Posey and drop Panik back into the bottom-third of the order.
  3. Brandon Belt returns. This is maybe the biggest wrinkle, although we don’t know when it will happen. I doubt Belt would bat second, but it may open the door to move someone like Pence there.

I’m not too worried about that, notably because the Giants are actually hitting and just won their first series against a winning team in nearly three months. Still, there should be a slight concern from potential fantasy owners that Panik will move down in the order. It’s just not likely to happen as long as he keeps hitting.

What about the weaknesses there? What are Joe Panik’s flaws?

Panik’s primary skill as a hitter is that he hits line drives to the gap. Unfortunately, line drives to the gap don’t usually go over the fence. Now, if Panik played in a place like Coors Field, Chase Field, Citizens Bank Park, Yankee Stadium, or the Great American Ballpark, I might be willing to predict 15 or so home runs for a full season, but I don’t see that happening at AT&T Park.

Now, 15 homers over a full year translates to 2-3 a month and I won’t say Panik can’t do that in September. But if you add him, you should expect zero homers and consider any he does get a bonus.

Unfortunately, so few home runs likely means limited RBI production. Panik will be hitting behind a competent Angel Pagan and he’ll get a few RBI that way. Still, gap hitters who hit in the two spot in a National League lineup that hit for little power are not likely to drive in many runs. As good as Joe Panik was in August, he only drove in 10 runs on the month. Again, he can drive in more than that, but don’t expect it.

Panik also stole only three bags in the minors this year and hasn’t stolen one since getting called up. Again, I won’t say that a few can’t happen, especially if the Giants double-steal with Pagan and Panik on base to stay out of the double play with someone like Buster Posey at the plate.

I don’t see much boom or bust potential with Panik. He should provide a good average and a decent amount of runs scored, while lagging in power and steals. You know you’re team better than I do at this point but if you need some stability in runs and average and can afford minimal production from the other categories, Joe Panik is a good addition.


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