With the playoff race in full swing, the Giants come into the hunt as one of the hottest teams in the game. They have won seven out of nine and have crawled back into the division race, two games out, while holding the top spot in the Wild Card. There is no doubt they are heating up at the right time, but do they have enough depth and grit to keep it up?
Joe Panik says yes. The former first rounder has given the Giants a Marco Scutaro look back when he was acquired from the Rockies in 2012. Panik has hit for a slash of .318/.366/.397 with 1 home run, 15 runs batted in, a .763 OPS, and an impressive 123 wRC+ in 194 plate appearances. The left-handed contact hitter has embraced the position and should’ve received Rookie of the Month honors for August when he hit for a monster line of .379/.416/.484 with an OPS of .900 and a 162 wRC+. He has also played tremendous defense racking up a 1.1 UZR, 2.9 UZR/150, with an overall defensive rating of 1.8, according to FanGraphs. He was drafted as a shortstop from St. Johns University in New York, but recently switched to a full time second baseman last year. He has made the transition look easy, that’s for sure.
“It seems like since he’s moved there, it’s just made us deeper,” Buster Posey said to Alex Pavlovic of the San Jose Mercury News. “With him getting on base it gives the three-four-five hitters a lot more opportunities to drive some runs in.”
The front office has tried combination of Brandon Hicks, Ehire Adrianza, and even Dan Uggla to fill the second-base hole, but it seems they struck gold with Panik. The Giants philosophy to bring in veteran players and let them find their role has backfired a bit, but the risk was needed and they promoted Panik without the slightest idea of what he could bring. Panik knew though.
“I wasn’t the guy who was going to hit for 35 homers,” Panik said to Pavlovic. “This is just the kind of ballplayer I am. I don’t want to say I’m Steady Eddie, but I’m a guy who is going to do the little things and try to play the right way. I take pride in that.”
His presence in the lineup is immeasurable and the boost he’s given the offense is apparent as they tallied the third most runs in baseball during August. The Giants might’ve found their second-baseman of the future.
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With the uncertainty of Posey staying at catcher long-term, Andrew Susac might be forcing the front office to make a move as soon as next year. With Hector Sanchez out with a brutal concussion, that ended his season, Susac came up and didn’t miss a beat. He is slashing an impressive .288/.327/.538 with 3 home runs, 15 RBI, .866 OPS, and a 148 wRC+ in just 55 plate appearances while playing honorable defense behind the plate. He has given the club a boost and has given Bochy the go-ahead on letting Posey start at least two games a week at first base. Who knows, maybe Susac is the starting catcher next year, Posey at first, and Belt is playing left field. We will have to wait, but Susac is going to have to keep playing stellar defense and hit in the clutch for the Giants to stay in the playoff race.
The Giants are supposed to have a horrendous farm system, and they still do, but right now their farm system is their pulse and the team will ride that pulse into the playoffs.
Honorable mentions (No, they’re not rookies):
Jake Peavy has been a pleasant surprise. With the loss of Matt Cain for the year due to elbow surgery, the Giants made a bold move by sending minor league pitchers Heath Hembree and Edwin Escobar to Boston for the streaky right-hander Peavy. In 47.1 innings pitched, Peavy has a 2.66 ERA with a 3.11 FIP while striking out 36 and walking 12. He is known for bringing emotion and leadership to the locker room and will be a weapon in the playoff chase.
While the need for a second-baseman has vanished, the front office also filled their bench issue. After being released by the Pirates, former 2010 World Series winner, Travis Ishikawa was signed to a minor-league contract. He was promoted soon after and has hit for a mind-boggling slash of .325/.333/.475 with a home run, 10 RBI, and an .808 OPS in 42 plate appearances. His bat off the bench was much needed as their number one pinch hitter was Joaquin Arias before Ishikawa. Obviously, at 30-years old, Ishikawa isn’t penciled for the future, but he will play a key role off the bench during their playoff hunt.
-Right now, San Francisco sits at 76-64, two games out in the division and first in the Wild Card standings. They start a three game series in Detroit as Rick Porcello and Peavy square off in the opener. Madison Bumgarner and David Price will go Saturday and then Tim Hudson and Kyle Lobstein will close the series on Sunday.
-The Giants will head home after Sunday and open up a three game series against Arizona and then host the first place Dodgers for a rare meaningful three game series in mid September.