Updating Joe Panik and Matt Duffy’s Scouting Grades

I’ve been thinking about doing this for a while. It’s always interesting to look back on a player’s scouting reports, grades, etc. It’s downright fun to do it when those players are turning heads and surprising the heck out of people all over MLB. So what do you say we rethink those grades for Panik & Duffy, two of the sweetest-swinging young players in the Giants lineup?

Joe Panik has now played over a full season’s worth of games in his MLB career, hitting a cool .307/.361/.411 in 710 PA. This season he’s at .309/.374/.443 with 25 2B and 7 HR. His season K% is 9.9, BB% is 8.8. His 2015 season adjusted to 650 PA (per Baseball-Ref) is .309, 41 2B, 11 HR, 58 RBI, 61 BB & 70 K. Pretty nice, huh?

The Duff Man has played 124 career MLB games (coming into today), and has logged a .299/.337/.439 slash with 9 HR in those 412 PA. He’s played 3/4 of those games in 2015, hitting .304/.343/.462 with 17 2B and 9 HR. He walks 4.3% of the time, strikes out in 17.3%. His HR% this year is 2.6. He’s also literally one of the most valuable rookies in all of baseball this season, making folks forget about a certain Panda pretty darn quickly.

So, how did the scouting reports read before these two were breakout MLB players? Obviously there was a lot more information readily available for Panik, who was considered a potential supplemental pick in the 2011 draft. Reports on Duffy were pretty sparse before he torched the Eastern League last season. I did find some prospect grades though, which I have included with a few old quotes from this site and others around the web.

Joe Panik (Pre-2013) | Hit 60 | Power 40 | Run 40 | Arm 50 | Field 50 – Grades from MLB Pipeline following Panik’s season in San Jose. I was interested to see what his report looked like after his 2013 season at Richmond, but the all I could find was the mid-season 2014 list (from which Panik had graduated).

“Scouts are impressed with his excellent feel for hitting, especially his polished, disciplined approach and strike-zone awareness. He earns high marks, as well, for his smooth, easy, compact lefthanded swing and ability to barrel up balls on a consistent basis.” ~ Perfect Game pre-draft report (2011)

We knew Panik could hit. But this?!
We knew Panik could hit. But this?!

“He’s the perfect No. 2 type hitter, one who can move runners, hit-and-run and hit when behind in the count. He makes the plays defensively without much flash. He played second base in the Arizona Fall League in 2011 and many feel that he’ll eventually slide over there permanently and become a very solid everyday big leaguer on the right side of the infield.” ~ MLB Pipeline (2013)

“He’ll be in Fresno next year, and he’s still got every opportunity to take the 2B job when Marco Scutaro’s contract is up. He probably won’t ever hit for power, but his plate approach has been above average at every level so far… I think that trend will continue. Just my personal opinion, but I think the “utility” label on Panik is a bit rushed at this point.” ~ Cove Chatter (2014)

Q: “How close was St Johns SS Joe Panik to making your top 50? How does he compare to UNC’s Michael? A: Not close. More 3rd-4th round type.” ~ Keith Law (2011 chat)

“Outside of these 10 prospects, Joe Panik is having a nice year for AAA Fresno, hitting .316/.378/.441. He’s still largely a singles hitter — 69 of his 91 hits have been singles — and he’s most likely a utility player at the majors. Considering the Giants’ issues at second base this year, it’s odd the team has never called him up, which might tell us how the team values Panik.” ~ Chris Quick (2014)

Joe Panik, Updated Grades

Hit 65 – If Buster Posey is the gold standard (a 70 grade hit tool) in the Giants lineup, a career .307 hitter isn’t too far behind him. The guy whose numbers are “bound to regress” has a serious shot to win a batting title some day… at least from my POV.

Power 45 – Most didn’t see him hitting 5 HR in a full season against MLB pitching. However, he’s shown that he indeed does have some pop in that bat. Not quite MLB average just yet, but those 25 2B weigh into this grade as well.

Run 45 – He’s really not a base-stealer, but he certainly doesn’t clog up the basepaths as well. This seems like a fair grade.

Arm 50 – Scouts were correct that Panik’s arm would move him to 2B, where it plays very well.

Field 60 – This to me is the big “surprise” in Panik’s game. Most scouts thought he would be an advanced hitter, but he was never really pegged as a potential great defender. Well, he’s now part of arguably the best double-play duo in baseball, and one of the most reliable defensive 2B in the game. This grade isn’t without merit either; an MLB scout was recently quoted in saying Panik might be the only non-SS infielder in the league he’d give a 60 fielding grade. Still not buying it? See Kansas City, Game 7, 2014 World Series. Yeah, Panik can pick it.

Matt Duffy (2014) | Hit 55 | Power 30 | Run 45 | Field 50 | Arm 55 – Grades are from MLB Pipeline’s 2014 mid-season update. This was Duffy’s first appearance in MLB.com’s Giants organizational rankings.

“…has good hands and the versatility to play anywhere in the infield.” ~ BA (2012 draft recap)

“He’s a true dirtbag, and a guy you’d like to have in your organization. He hit two doubles and drove in a run during his debut in San Jose. If he can keep showing a steady approach at the plate and improve his defense, the Giants may just have a sleeper in the mold of Joe Panik in this kid.” ~ Cove Chatter (Summer 2013)

“With a little more meat on his bones, I could see Duffy getting his HR’s up near 20 or even more.” ~ DrB (Pre-2014)

The Duff Man | Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports
The Duff Man | Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

“At first glance he looks gangly, but there is some serious potential there, wrapped up in a nice easy swing.  Power is going to come.  But third… He can play all over the diamond.  2B.  SS.  3B.  OF.  It don’t matter to Duffy. The Giants have a Ben Zobrist on their hands.  They just have to be patient.” ~ Shankbone (2014 MLB promotion)

“He’s a jack-of-all-trades type who can take a walk and swipe a bag, but I think I’m most impressed with his ability to drive the ball. Watch those videos – now that’s a pretty good-looking swing (and great bat speed!) for a guy billed as a light-hitting utility infielder out of college. He certainly wasn’t young for the SALLY, but he just seems like a guy who has confidence in his abilities, which we already saw with his move to San Jose.” ~ Cove Chatter (pre-2014)

“…he won’t have more than gap power.” ~ MLB Pipeline (2014)

Matt Duffy, Updated Grades

Hit 60 – He strikes out more than Panik, but he’s still under 20%. He’s a guy I feel very comfortable with at the plate in a late-game situation. Sprays the ball to all fields, makes adjustments within games and within at bats. The Duff Man, plus hitter!

Power 50 – Do you agree or disagree with this? He’s at 9 HR with two months left to play. Can he get to 15? 12 might be more likely at the moment. But Duffy has sneaky power, and he’s teed off on a few pitches lately. In this age of pitching-dominant baseball, I call that average power… and a far cry from the 30 grade he was given last season.

Run 55 – Not a huge base-stealing threat at this point, but he swiped 20 bags in AA last year, and we’ve seen him motor when he gets moving. He’s also intelligent on the bases, very rarely making a mistake.

Field 50 – A former 2B/SS, he’s taken the 3B job and run with it. There will be a few bumps in the road for a while, but to me Duffy has looked more than capable of handling the hot corner. He’s getting better as the season progresses.

Arm 55 – Though there were questions during his time in the minors about whether he’d stick at short, he’s always earned pretty solid reviews on his arm, which seems to be playing just fine at 3B.

Take a look at those grades. Whether you agree or disagree with all of them, it’s pretty obvious that Duffy is average or better across the board. How about THAT for an 18th round sleeper pick?!

If you’re asking what the point to all of this is, I’ve been following the minors (and researching Giants prospects) for long enough now that I know you’re never completely right or wrong about a player. “Predicting” a player’s final outcome is incredibly hard, and yet people try to do it every day. But what really gets me are the writers/bloggers/online evaluators who, the minute a player is drafted, promoted, demoted, or even called up to the majors for the first time, act like they know that player’s fate as a baseball player. News flash: they don’t.

Have I been wrong about a lot of players? Yes, of course I have. This is the nature of “prospecting.” It’s 100% an inexact science, as they say. But I can tell you this: I absolutely will not use the words “can’t,” “never,” and “no chance” when I’m talking about a player’s abilities or future abilities. Why? Look no further than the two guys above. There were tons of limitations put on Panik and Duffy by the experts out there. But the Giants knew what they had all along, and now they are reaping the benefits. Where would we be this year without those two?!

Joe Panik and Matt Duffy – improving (and defying expectations) every day. Because in the end, a grade is just a number… Thanks for reading!

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15 thoughts on “Updating Joe Panik and Matt Duffy’s Scouting Grades”

  1. Good job. As to Panik’s defense being a surprise, it’s worth mentioning that he was the defensive player of the year (at SS) at San Jose. It’s impressive how good he’s gotten at 2B in just a couple of years…almost as impressive as how good Duffy’s gotten at 3B in just a matter of WEEKS. We’re very lucky to have these two young guys. Hope the back gets better quickly, Joe!

    1. Thanks Lefty! The scary part for me (aside from Joe’s back problems right now) is the way these two continue to get better. As good as they’ve both played this season, I don’t think we’ve seen the best of Panik or Duffy yet…

    1. Thanks for the link! I thought I might be a little under on the hit tools, a little over on the power. This pretty much confirms how I was feeling. I’ll bookmark the page and use it for future reference… btw, sorry for moving around so much. This should be the LAST move!

    1. Crawford would be a FUN one to look back on as well. I remember when he was pegged as an all-glove, no-bat… I’m not sure anyone predicted this kind of offensive breakout, but he’s slowly been building up over the past few years. Very cool to see. Nice find!

      1. No one predicted it, but I would note that pre-draft pre-junior season, Crawford was ranked by BA in their off-season Top 10 for that draft, so the potential was certainly there, but for whatever reason (fate right? then he gets drafted by his boyhood team instead of a stinker NL West competitor!), his last college season was not impressive enough and he fell a lot.

        That has been one of the nice changes when Barr joined us, the Giants already had a rep for going their own way in picking prospects, but then he added the twist of going for prospects who were ranked as very talented at some point, but fell for whatever reasons. Crawford, Osich, even Susac.

        In Shandler’s annual, Baseball Forecaster, they make the observation that once a player shows a skill, he keeps it forever, as it’s then a matter of repeating that skill. This new twist seems to push it back from simply the minors (which BF’s observation was about) to their college and even HS performances. I believe in this rule for minor league prospects, but with these successes (I’m sure there are others, these just came to mind), I’m thinking that this could extend further back in a prospect’s career/history, into the amateurs.

        Of course, not all work out, but the Giants do seem to keep their eye on prospects for a long time, and are willing to take that chance with certain ones that they identify.

  2. I try not to get too wrapped up in prospect ‘rankings.’ I’ve long since noticed that most prospects fail. I’ve also noticed that prospect rankings are too heavily weighted to perceived ceilings and under-weighted to things like work-ethic, ability to learn, ability to compensate for defects, etc. So I don’t take them very seriously. For example:

    2011 #1 — Gary Brown
    2012 #1 — Gary Brown
    2013 #1 — Kyle Crick
    2014 #1 — Kyle Crick
    2015 #1 — Kyle Crick (now demoted to 6th)

    I have serious doubts either has a meaningful (average starter or better) career in the majors. Meanwhile Panik is an All Star. Duffy came from nowhere and is a legit ROY candiate. Heston is pitching like a #2/#3.

    1. I think that there is value to rankings, but I agree that they are not a be all, end all type of proposition. I noticed the same thing about rankings from my time playing Fantasy Baseball, I used the rankings a lot, Top 100, Top 30/20, and still most of them fail or eventually fail. The failure rate is stunning beyond the Top 10-20.

      One type of ranking that I have found to be useful is looking at BA’s Top 20 rankings for each league at the end of the season. While team rankings is variable as to their true meaning because somebody has to be #1 prospects, no matter how good or bad your system is, the league rankings place players at about the same age and experience and rank against each other. It seems to be a much more pure ranking, true, lots of potential is involved, but that’s just part of the whole thing though, right? And this works better than the Top 100 because players of all ages and experiences are being lumped together, and so potential is a huge and variable component involved.

      That is why I like to split prospect rankings into two parts: one for this season and one for potential. I also limit it to Top 6 for each (as you astutely note, just a few ever make it), plus create lists for interesting prospects to follow. As DrB notes, the point is not the ranking but the discussion involved. I don’t have the knowledge or time to go that deeply into the prospects, but DrB, Shankbone, CoveChatter, Wrenzie all do (and I’m sure there are others, just these are the ones I read), and so can go beyond the few I can cover, and I find that information rich and valuable for understanding our prospects.

      One area I disagree with is the dismissal of any prospect just because most fail. That ignores an area that Sabean has been great at as GM, avoiding the trading of prospects who eventually become good.

      That is something Beane admirers ignore, dismissing the implications because it was a trade, but to trade away Ethier only to have Ethier produce more WAR than the guy the A’s got, Milton Bradley, but was a cheap young asset as well as better producer. Once, OK, I can accept that, but then he traded away CarGon and Street for Holliday, and CarGon breaks out the next season too. Then he traded Holliday down to nothing. Now there’s the Addison Russell trade, and sure, he got a lot of pieces in return, eventually, but Russell looks like he’s going to be a star for a long time, whereas now the A’s just got a lot of OK pieces, but no stars to lead the future.

      Sabean has been great at this. The list of players is short: Grilli, Foulke, Howry, Liriano, Villanueva, Aardsma, Wheeler. And none of them made the Giants look bad the very next season, it took each of these successes a number of years before they figured out how to be productive in the majors. The worse mistakes are trading away your Cain, Lincecum, Sanchez, Wilson, Sandoval, Romo, Posey, Bumgarner, Belt, Crawford, Panik, Duffy when they are young and full of IDENTIFIED potential. for, as noted, these are the ideals, the cheap productive players who enable us to spend on our established stars and to sign free agents.

    2. I still have a lot of hope for Crick. He’s still only 22 YO, way too soon to give up on a talented prospect like him. Way too soon. He’s actually been very good every season, look at his game scores for each start, and even this season, he was continuing his good starts at the start then lost it for a long while, until the move to reliever got him to stop struggling and start showing his talents.

      The problem has been his massive hiccups, not that he wasn’t pitching well, he would pitch very well, but then have a really bad start. Hard to keep that consistency all season long, and maybe it won’t work out for him, but at 22 YO, still lots of time for him to learn, particularly given that he didn’t even pitch much in HS, so he’s still catching up.

      But yeah, being #1 don’t really mean much. Look at the Giants #1 during the 90’s and 2000’s before Cain, none of them actually did anything. And not being ranked is not death, Sandoval wasn’t even ranked the season he broke out, Duffy was not mentioned at all until last season, Heston was not ranked that highly ever. Lots of prospect hounds act like they knew about Belt and Duffy, but the majority only saw it after they started hitting well, while DrB and others noticed Duffy in A-ball and the Giants saw it before the draft (and not KLaw, the way he acts about Belt).

      And Crick’s not #1 anymore, for sure, but that’s OK too, Bumgarner was pretty good too but Posey was #1 in 2010, each season is variable to a great extent. The main idea, again to DrB, is to discuss each prospect on their own merits, and the ranking is just a framework that people seem to like and from which the discussion can begin.

  3. Also, I should say you actually do a better job on this kind of thing than many of the alleged professionals. And you’re also much better with the statistical projections than the people that get their projections listed at FanGraphs. Something I pointed out during the off season.

    1. I really appreciate you saying that. For me, this is totally just a fun hobby. I truly think the professional writers are so cautious because they don’t want to be seen as over-hyping too many guys who bust. Me, I know every prospect has long odds, but I know ANY prospect (even some “non-prospect” types) has the potential of making it.

      Duffy will always be my motivation for point out what players can do, not what they can’t do. And personally, I think the Giants as an organization look at amateur talent that way more than most others. I think that’s why we see them shying away from the toolsy, upside types in favor of the guys who have performed ON the field, the guys known for their baseball IQ… There are enough people putting these guys down, telling them what they already know – that the odds are long. The day that I spend more time focusing on the negatives is the day that I stop doing this. Sorry for the long response, but I just love rooting for these guys and telling their stories. Thanks for the compliment.

  4. Hello Mr. Kyle! Not sure if I’ll address you by your name or CC but I guess I’ll take it by your name. Great grades on the two! I agree with all of the grades that you put up on Duffman and Panik. I always thought that Panik is the sort of hitter that we can see in the No. 2 spot in the lineup. He’s just so contact-oriented and it really fits with us. he blow my expectations away defensively. I thought he’s going to be good but not this Gold Glove-quality. With Duffman, I think the thing that (is it Kruk or Kuip) said that he’ll be a 20 HR guy is pretty far-fetched. I think that he’s going to be a 15 HR guy in my opinion with the solid averages and with solid defense. Giants IF looks really sound in the future plus we’ll be getting more IF players in the Minors esp. Arroyo. I love everything that you are shelling out Mr. Kyle!

    1. Thanks Wrenzie! I have to admit, my own pre-season projections for Panik & Duffy look very foolish now. I have always believed in them as future contributors, but I did NOT see a rise to stardom this quickly. Now, I can honestly tell you I would project them to hit .290 or better every year for the foreseeable future. I think they are both THAT good of hitters. And I too think Duffy can hit 15 HR a season. I wouldn’t rule out a couple years of 20 though, to be honest!

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