First off, let me start by saying that Keith Law once again lived down to my already-low opinion of him and proved himself a tool once again. For him to write that Panik is a future utility infielder in the making is just idiotic - especially in light of some of the prospects that he lauded in the draft (Spangenberg and Wong). Also, for him to state that Panik doesn't have the footspeed to be a factor as a basestealer in the pros is just plain wrong. Panik has been timed from home to first in as little as 4.15 seconds. That's not Gary Brown territory, but it is plenty fast enough to show that he has above-average foot speed to be very effective on the basepaths in the majors. It makes me think that Law never even saw Panik play in person or for any amount of time on TV.
Now that I got that off of my chest, let me get back on topic. We all know by now that the Joe Panik pick was widely-panned, even by the goofball analysts on the MLB Network feed - who normally take the Lake Woebegone (where "all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average" ) route of saying every pick is great.
While I like Panik as a potential big league Giant, and even had him on my draft list as a player of interest for our #116 pick in the 2nd round, taking him at #29 was an obvious reach for a position of need. Even that wouldn't have been so bad if not for all of the missed opportunities that they left on the board at the time of the pick. It really put the lie to what John Barr, the Giants Draft Director, told BA.com just a few short days before the draft. To paraphrase, Barr told them that he fully expected to have a shot at one of the guys that the Giants had rated in the top 15 of all available players, just like Gary Brown was last year when they drafted at #24 overall. There is just no way that I can see Panik being listed in the top 15 on the Giants draft board. In fact, I can't even see him being in the top 25.
So, I've been trying to wrap my head around why the Giants would go so far off script. I've looked at it from several angles and only came up with the 2 following plausible explanations.
1. The Giants really had their hearts set on Sean Gilmartin at #29 (now he's a guy that I could see being ranked in their top 15 list based on Dick Tidrow's recommendation). They had no clue that the Braves also liked him and were caught completely off guard when Atlanta took Gilmartin at #28. The Giants went into temporary shock, panicked (pun intended), and took Panik at #29, because he was a guy that they liked and their middle-infield depth is woefully weak.
2. The Giants had other guys like Joe Ross, or Robert Stephenson targetted at #29 and when they went off the board early they decided to change their strategy. They only had a limited amount of money budgeted for the draft, so they decided to get a sure-thing advanced college middle-infielder who had a seemingly fast-track to the majors, and who would sign for close to slot and start playing pro ball right away. The Giants would then take some higher-upside riskier guys that would take longer to develop in the following rounds. They would cost quite a bit overslot, but not as much as if they took a guy like that at #29. This makes a lot of sense to me, in that I think we can all agree that Sabean is in a definite "win-now" mode while he still has control of his stable of young pitchers for a few more years. Sabean probably came to the conclusion that Panik was a key piece of his puzzle for 2013 or '14, and he couldn't take the chance that somebody would steal him away before the #49 or #86 pick. The fact that the Giants took Kyle Crick at #49 does lend some credence to this theory, as he is a high-upside kid that will take several years to develop and cost well overslot to sign. We won't be able to say for sure if this theory is good until we see who the Giants take in rounds 2 through 30 tomorrow.