This is a special year for the San Jose Giants, who are currently celebrating their 25th season as an affiliate of the San Francisco Giants. The California League club honored this impressive milestone during a season preview event in which it put some of the organization's best prospects on display, generating excitement among the longtime Giants fans in attendance.
One of those prospects was shortstop Joe Panik, a first-round pick in the 2011 Draft. Ranked as the No. 7 prospect in San Francisco's system, Panik turned heads last year by winning the Northwest League MVP Award and then hitting .323 in 27 games in the Arizona Fall League. He was NWL batting champ with a .341 average and took home the RBI crown as well.
Though he's off to a somewhat sluggish this season, Panik chalks up his prior success to confidence and seeks to recapture that momentum in 2012.
"I [played well] against high-caliber players in the Arizona Fall League," he said. "Baseball is so mental. You prepare in the offseason with your strength and conditioning, but [for me] the last few seasons have been about confidence."
Panik has another connection to San Francisco, aside from the pipeline up the peninsula. Former All-Star shortstop Rich Aurilia broke out with the Giants as a power hitter in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Like Panik, Aurilia attended St. John's University in Jamaica, N.Y. Though Panik aims to follow Aurilia's lead to the big leagues, he refuses to succumb to the pressure of being compared to anyone.
"As a player you want to succeed no matter what," he said. "[It doesn't matter] where you're drafted or if you sign as a free agent."
Panik is in a good position to deal with the daily grind of a full season after amassing 589 at-bats in 2011 between his junior season at St. John's, his time with Salem-Keizer in the Northwest League and the month he played for Scottsdale in the AFL.
"You don't want to look at the big picture in terms of 140 games and 500 at-bats," he said. "I stay focused on what's at hand."
Top Nut: Entering the week on a nine-game hitting streak, Modesto outfielder Corey Dickerson leads his club with a .337 average, .551 slugging percentage and 16 RBIs in 24 games. The Mississippi native, who turns 23 this month, is coming off a big year with Class A Asheville, where he hit 32 home runs in 106 games.
Stingy Cingrani: Bakersfield left-hander Tony Cingrani remains atop the league leaderboard with a 0.39 ERA. His most recent start was a one-hit masterpiece against Stockton on April 26. Cingrani struck out eight and walked one over six scoreless innings. He's allowed two runs -- one earned -- with 28 strikeouts in 23 frames.
Flawless victories: Rancho Cucamonga closer Logan Bawcom is sporting a spotless ERA in eight appearances this season. He's picked up five saves and 16 strikeouts in 10 1/3 innings. Bawcom hasn't allowed a hit since April 10 against Lancaster -- the only hit he's yielded all season.