Dynasty Band Aid: Joe Panik
Sorry for being out last week folks, I’ve decided to start a series on what we’ll call dynasty band aids. These players will not be expected to be the cornerstones of your franchise, but should be acquired very cheaply, and be capable of being starter worthy in deep leagues whether they be 15+ mixed leaguers, the random league with insane rosters, or a standard AL or NL only. These players should not be counted on for more than a year or two. Now we’ll get to the first man up.
In an injury marred 127 game 2016 season, Panik hinted at a potential buy low opportunity.
Now what most would consider a disastrous injury shortened season, Panic continued to improve upon his skills that got him to the MLB in the first place. In the past three seasons Panik has improved his walk rate, and lowered his strikeout rate. While plate discipline is rarely a category in fantasy, it’s a core competency that can lead to great Major League success.
Last year Panik became one of three players to have a BB/K rate that was over 1, the other two being longtime plate discipline masters Ben Zobrist and Carlos Santana. Panik has yet to become the king of positional flexibility or a former catcher turned slugger, so his rise to the peak of this obscure skill has gone mostly unnoticed. Here lies the opportunity before you to take advantage of. Over the past 4 seasons, there have been 14 instances of a player recording a BB/K over 1. 12 of those seasons saw the batter have a wRC+ over 100, the two that didn’t were Alberto Callaspo in 2013 with a 99, and Joe Panik with an 89 last season. A healthier Panik seems primed to have a massive improvement in batting average, and the notoriously fickle runs category.
2016 presented Panik with struggles he was not well acquainted with. His batted ball profile took a hit with his line drive (23% 2015, 17.5% 2016) and his hard-hit (30% 2015, 25.6% 2016) rates simultaneously dropping, but his slight increase in fly balls (33.8% 2015, 37% 2016) led to a disproportionate drop in his babip. Panik is no power hitter, but after hitting the ball from line to line in the previous two seasons it takes quite a bit of bad luck to drop a babip from .330 to .245. Yet again, health may have had a significant effect on his ability to square balls up, but if his eye was this keen, it seems unlikely that he naturally lost all ability to get the knocks he was getting in 2015. Lastly this seems very unlikely to be a problem that repeats itself because on top of his excellent eye, he improved his overall contact rate, chased less, and swung at the exact same rate of strikes. It’s hard to imagine him more or less doing everything to improve his hit tool would result in a repeat of his 2016 misfortunes.
Most importantly, we have to factor in health. Hip, groin, back, and concussion issues caused him to miss 35 games, and surely impacted him in many that he was playing. Without any form of medical training, and no medical reports to show you, we can merely speculate on how Panik will fare going forward. I would err on the side of optimism and assume a healthier 2017. Getting banged up is part of playing a full season, and being expected to continue to perform is the norm, therefore since he failed to suffer any long-term injuries last year, it’s reasonable to anticipate Panik will be better prepared for the rigors of a MLB season.
The downside is that Panik fails to be a power or speed threat which places a lot of pressure on his bat. Unfortunately, that also means Panik is forced to compete with the likes of Brandon Belt, Buster Posey, and Hunter Pence for ABs atop the Giants lineup. This likely means that he’s going to sit lower in the lineup than when he last experienced real success at the plate. I’d assume on opening day San Francisco Giants lineup looks similar to this:
- Parker/Williamson (whomever the OF they go after ends up being)
Presently that paints Panik in the least sexy of lights, but his style of play should allow him to improve his stock as the season goes on because of his reliability. Injuries and slumps to teammates will present opportunities, and hopefully his ability to consistently be displaying a strong OBP will allow him to move up. Denard Span has missed at least 19 games in 4 of the last 6 seasons, including 2015 and 2016, hopefully Panik can pounce when something like this happens, as Panik would seem to be a natural replacement in the lineup.
In conclusion, Panik is not going to be your MVP, he may not even be your best second baseman, but with the down year he just had, he’s primed to present a much improved stat line in 2016, and hey this is what Matt Carpenter and Michael Brantley did before they became what we now know of them.