Panik a throwback kind of prospect
Joe Panik isn't going to "wow" you the first time you watch him play.
He's not the type of prospect who makes headlines with prodigious home runs or by being fleet of foot. Initially, one might not realize he was a first-round Draft pick or that he's ranked No. 4 among Giants prospects by MLB.com.
Panik is a player who's greater than the sum of his parts. Since being drafted out of St. John's University in 2011, he has walked more times than he's struck out. Last season, he recorded 10 steals, racked up 215 total bases and finished fifth in the California League with 93 runs scored.
Perhaps most refreshingly, Panik is at ease with who he is as a player, not unlike his idol, Derek Jeter.
Joe Panik: I feel like that's very accurate. I'm not going to be a guy that -- if you watch me one time -- that I'm not going to stand out in the crowd. But if you watch me day in and day out, you'll see I play hard every day. I'll do the little things and I grind things out. I just feel like I'm fundamentally sound, with bunting and hit-and-run. I'm not a traditional power or speed guy, but I'm a contact guy.
MiLB.com: You do a little bit of everything, steal a few bases, hit a few homers and you walk more than you strike out. Do you view yourself as a throwback player?
Panik: I've heard that before. I would say so because you don't see that, the walks and the strikeouts, too often. I'm a classic two-hitter. I'm not a speed guy that's going to steal you 50 bags. I'm not going to hit 40 home runs. I'm a grinder, that's the way guys used to play. I'm more of that old-school style.
MiLB.com: You're a shortstop by trade, but there's been some talk about moving to second base. What are your thoughts on switching positions?
Panik: I'm open to it. I'm willing to do whatever it takes to move up and help the big club eventually. Playing shortstop or second base, it really doesn't matter to me as long as long as I'm out on that field.
MiLB.com: You had a tremendous second half last year. What was the key for you?
Panik: I tried to do too much in April and I really got myself into a hole. After April, I really settled down and, if you look at the numbers, I just tried to get back to my game and not put up homers and get back to getting on base and working counts. That's kind of the key, to work counts and get on base, and the rest will take care of itself.
I was a little too anxious. I was not being patient, I was swinging at pitcher's pitches. Pitchers, especially at the higher levels, especially if you swing at their pitch, you're going to get out more often than not. I was just being a little overanxious. That was my biggest thing in April.
MiLB.com: What are you trying to accomplish this year?
Panik: I'm just trying to have a solid season, play a full season and just keep improving. That's the main goal. As you keep getting older, guys keep getting better, so you have to keep getting better as well. Keep getting better and getting more mature as a ballplayer and the rest will take care of itself.
MiLB.com: What is an area of your game that you are looking to improve?
Panik: Right now, I'd probably say I'd like to get better at short and second and become a little more versatile as a fielder. Just being able to play second, play short at a high level. If they tell me to play short, I want to go out there and excel. If I go out there and play second, I want to excel. I want to be someone that they count on to play multiple positions.
MiLB.com: You're playing for an organization that has won two of the last three World Series titles. How excited are you to be a part of that?
Panik: It's great to know that your club has had a lot of success and that someday you can be a part of it. It really drives you to push yourself hard and to be a part of it.
MiLB.com: You grew up and went to college in New York. How tough was it to get drafted by a team so far away?
Panik: It's a little different in the beginning, but to be honest, I'm just happy to be selected by the Giants. Geographic location really doesn't bother me at all. I'm just happy to be a part of a winning organization that really takes pride in the players that it drafts and tries to take care of them.
MiLB.com: It looks like you'll begin the season at Double-A. How exciting would it be to play in the Eastern League, a little closer to home?
Panik: It would be nice to play in the Eastern League, to be back on the East Coast and be able to see some friends and family would be nice. That would be fun, that would be cool to be in the Eastern League from that perspective. Baseball-wise, it's one of the best leagues out there.
MiLB.com: What team did you root for growing up?
Panik: Being in New York, I was a Yankees fan. My father was a Yankees fan, so I just followed in his footsteps. Jeter was my favorite player. He handles himself so well on and off the field -- that's somebody you want to try and be like.
MiLB.com: Have you tried to pattern your game after him?
Panik: I'd say so. If you look at the way he hits, he's not a power guy or a speed guy. He does the little things well and he's very fundamentally sound. He's definitely someone I tried to tailor my game after.
MiLB.com: How did you spend your offseason?
Panik: After the [Arizona] Fall League, I went back to New York and trained. I trained at this place in New Jersey, New Jersey Sports Advantage. I had a quiet offseason, it's nice to have a couple of months off. Just kind of a quick turnaround. It's good because you don't get that lull period, you just want to get right back into it.
MiLB.com: The Giants send a lot of their big leaguers to rehab in San Jose. Have you gotten a chance to play with any of them?
Panik: Last year, Freddy Sanchez, Aubrey Huff and Pablo Sandoval rehabbed with us. It's always fun when those guys come down because they take care of you. They're regular guys, they like to have a good time and talk to you. You realize that they're Major Leaguers, but they still play like a kid -- they have fun with the game.
Robert Emrich is a contributor to MLB.com.