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)
“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)
“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!