The San Francisco Giants don’t have significant reason to “panic” at second base, but top-rated infield prospect Joe Panik is shredding triple-A competition, which could potentially force the club to make a move. The Giants’ future starting second baseman has been on fire in Fresno, recording a .326 batting average with five home runs while driving-in 42 runs in 267 official at-bats over 67 games. Giants executives haven’t budged on the idea of promoting Panik, but his hitting prowess is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore.
The Giants are mired in minor struggles this week, dropping four of their last five games during their current 10-game home stand. San Francisco remains in good standing in the NL West, grasping a major league-best 7.5 game division lead over the arch-rival Los Angeles Dodgers. The Giants’ fast start has left general manager Brian Sabean and manager Bruce Bochy admittedly little to disclose concern over, but San Francisco’s long-time GM knows that it’s far too early in the season to dub the current roster playoff-ready.
Scrap heap pickup Brandon Hicks has been mostly solid as a bottom of the order run-producer (22 RBI in 185 at-bats), but his current 8-for-62 skid (.129 average) has caused Giants fans to begin clamoring for Panik. San Francisco’s bench has proven itself to be more of an asset than a liability, although decreasing Hicks’ playing time by adding Panik to the big league roster could potentially make the Giants a better ball club than they already are. The Giants lack noticeable pop off the bench. Positioning Hicks (eight home runs) in a lesser role could ease the pressure on the career .164 hitter and make way for a potential difference-maker.
The Giants selected Panik with the 29th overall pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft. San Francisco doesn’t typically place position players on the fast-track, but Panik could be an exception. He’s elevated his game, telling MLB.com media, “I’m ready to play. I want to get it going.” His demeanor won’t allow him to falter on baseball’s biggest stage.
San Francisco’s refusal to promote Panik could be perceived as short-sighted, considering Hicks’ recent struggles and Maro Scutaro‘s laboring back problem, but team executives want to be sure the 23-year-old can contribute upon his arrival. If he continues to produce at his current rate while Hicks flounders at the dish, the Giants’ hand will be forced. It’s possible that Bochy and Sabean are holding out hope that Scutaro, whose contract doesn’t expire until after the 2015 season, can come back healthy enough to produce after the All-Star Break. That’s the only realistic roadblock preventing the Giants from giving Panik a serious look at second base.