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MLB San Francisco Giants

San Francisco Giants Spring Training Profile: Joe Panik

Joe Panik looks to take the next step in his progression by earning a trip to Triple-A in spring training. (Kyle Terada – USA Today Sports)

When he was drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the first round of the 2011 MLB draft, Joe Panik was widely considered the best college shortstop in the country at St. John’s. Over his past two seasons in the minor leagues, he has shown a good deal of consistency.

In 2012, Panik played the entire year in High-A ball and in 2013 he played the entire season at Double-A. Both seasons, he hit the exact same number of doubles and triples, stole the exact same amount of bases and walked exactly the same number of times. One statistical category that didn’t stay steady as he made the jump from High-A to Double-A, however, was his batting average.

Panik had a very successful second season in the minor leagues in 2012 when he hit .297. Unfortunately, his batting average dropped all the way to .257 a season ago. As is true at all levels of baseball, there is a learning curve and Panik will have to learn to keep up.

During his minor league career, Panik has followed a very structured development plan. He has played at three separate levels in the minor leagues and has never played across two different levels in the same season. The next step in Panik’s progression would be to play this season in Triple-A and that’s where he will possibly start the season.

Another option for the Giants would be to give him some more experience in Double-A and hope that he adjusts to the pitching within a month or two, which would warrant a call-up to Triple-A. That way, Panik’s confidence doesn’t take a hit if he struggles in Triple-A at the outset of the season.

It is telling that the Giants made Panik one of their non-roster invitees to spring training. The invite says that San Francisco knows what it has in him and wants to see how he has progressed. How it came up with an answer to that question will likely decide whether or not Panik starts this season just one call away from the majors in Triple-A.

Jacob Kornhauser is a baseball writer for RantSports.com. Add him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter and add him to your Google+ network.