Giants Look Forward To Panik Time

Shortstop making steady progress in pro ball





SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ.—Just four months after he was drafted, infielder Joe Panik found himself playing among the best prospects in the game. The Giants sent him to the Arizona Fall League, where his Scottsdale Scorpions teammates included elite outfielders Mike Trout and Bryce Harper.

Who taught Panik the most?

"Brandon Crawford, actually," he said. "Harper and Trout are very gifted, but Crawford and I played the same position. He definitely helped me with my defense. He's been up in the big leagues and so he could tell me things those other guys couldn't. He definitely helped a lot."

Crawford is expected to be the Giants' Opening Day shortstop, and Panik could become his double-play partner in future seasons.

A hard-nosed, lefthanded hitter out of St. John's, Panik, 21, signed soon after the Giants spent the 29th overall selection on him last June. Then he tore up the short-season Northwest League while winning MVP honors, responding to those who felt he was an overdraft because he lacks a standout tool.

"I've heard those things, and of course, you don't like it," said Panik, who hit .341/.401/.467 with 13 steals in 18 tries for the Volcanoes. "You can't let it get to you. I know I'm not flashy, but I play hard and I try to play the right way. I feel I deserve what I got. It's up to me to put that aside and go out and play baseball, at-bat to at-bat."

At the end of the AFL, nobody did a better job at-bat to at-bat than Panik. While others were wilting on the hard-as-cement infields, Panik hit safely in seven of his last eight games—posting multiple hits in three of them—to finish with a .323 average. He hit nearly .400 against lefthanders, too.

"Just like everybody else, I was on my last legs," Panik said. "I learned the mental part of the game. I learned to take care of my body. And the more I played, I understood how the pitchers were attacking me."

GIANTICS

• Second baseman Charlie Culberson was limited at the start of spring training after breaking the tip of his left index finger in a weight room accident. He was expected to recover within a few weeks.

• Righthander Heath Hembree's high-octane stuff was the talk of camp on the first day of live batting practice.