June 2011

Giants draft shortstop Panik with first pick

Virginia Keith Werman, left, tags out St. John's Joe Panik (2) at second base during Game 4 of the NCAA college regional baseball tournament on Saturday, June 4, 2011, in Charlottesville, Va. Virginia won 10-2. (AP Photo/Andrew Shurtleff)

The Giants followed a familiar path with their first-day picks in the first-year player draft on Monday, selecting a mature bat and a young arm.

The Giants selected St. John’s shortstop Joe Panik with the 29th overall pick on Monday. Panik, a left-handed hitter, hit .398 with 10 home runs and 53 RBI and had a .477 on-base percentage for the Red Storm this season. And there’s a lot to like about Panik.

He’s a contact hitter. The Giants need more of them.

He walks more than he strikes out (44 BB to 24 K). The Giants REALLY need more guys like that.

Panik can play both middle infield positions, but the Giants project him as a shortstop for now, even though they just called up rookie Brandon Crawford to play shortstop.

The selection of Panik followed a Giants trend of drafting hitters who can contribute quickly. The Giants recently have gone into the college ranks in recent years to select OF Gary Brown (Cal State Fullerton) and OF Jarrett Parker (Virginia) in 2010, 3B Chris Dominguez (Louisville) and 1B Brandon Belt (Texas) in 2009 and C Buster Posey (Florida State), 3B Connor Gillaspie (Wichita State) and Crawford (UCLA) in 2008.

While the Giants say they like Panik as a shortstop, it might not be a stretch to see him playing second base and hitting second in the order in 2013 when Freddy Sanchez’s contract expires. Charlie Culberson, a first-round pick in 2007 and currently at Double-A Richmond, also is a possibility at 2B.

With 49th overall selection, the Giants picked Kyle Crick, a hard-throwing high school pitcher from Texas. The 6-foot-4, 225-pounder was clocked with a 95 mph fastball. He’s signed to play baseball with TCU, so it will be interesting to see if the Giants can sign him.

Crick follows out high school pitchers the Giants have recently drafted like Zack Wheeler (2009), Madison Bumgarner (2007) and Tim Alderson (2007).

Buster Posey and his future as a Giants catcher

So, Buster Posey is done for the year. Only the most optimistic of Giants fan was expecting something different in the wake of the catcher’s traumatic injuries suffered last week.

The official word came on Sunday after Posey underwent surgery on his broken ankle and torn ankle ligaments. Posey had some screws placed into his lower leg to stabilize the ankle, and Giants trainer Dave Groeschner said the Posey will have another procedure in 8 to 10 weeks to remove some of that hardware.

San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey leaves Health Diagnostics in San Francisco on Thursday, May 26, 2011, the day after fracturing a bone in his lower left leg and three torn ligaments in his ankle during a baseball game against the Florida Marlins. The Giants put Posey on the disabled list; he could be out for the season. (AP Photo/San Francisco Chronicle, Lea Suzki)

Rehab would begin after the second procedure, effectively ending his 2011 season.

So now we must consider what’s next in Posey’s playing future. Groeschner said he expects Posey to make a full recovery by next spring training, but really won’t know for certain until he sees how the healing process goes by late summer or early fall.

There has been a good amount of chatter surrounding Posey and whether or not he should continue to play catcher. Even former teammate Bengie Molina said the Giants should seriously consider moving Posey to another position where Posey would less in harm’s way.

Posey, on the other hand, says he remains “100 percent committed” to returning to catching for the 2012 season.

The decision to move Posey to another position may be one the Giants will eventually make. But the likelihood of that happening in 2012 is not good.

Here’s why.

This is the projected 2012 lineup, based on players who are under the Giants’ control in 2012.

1B — Aubrey Huff
2B — Freddy Sanchez
SS — Brandon Crawford
3B — Pablo Sandoval
C — Posey
LF — Brandon Belt
CF — Andres Torres
RF — Aaron Rowand/Nate Schierholtz
BENCH — Eli Whiteside, Mike Fontenot, Emmanuel Burriss, Darren Ford

OK, so if you move Posey out of the catcher position, where do you move him?

Third base? That’s where Sandoval plays. If Posey is at third base, where does The Panda play?

First base? That would force Huff (who will be paid $11 million in 2012) back to the outfield. We’ve seen that before, and it wasn’t pretty. Under this alignment, we would expect Huff to play left and Belt in right.  That’s a little be easier to stomach than Huff in right, where he was a disaster back in April, but it’s certainly not a Gold Glove outfield. We’ve seen with the offensive struggles that Giants have endured this season how important a solid defense is.

Left field? Is this any better than moving Huff to outfield? Do the Giants want to open 2012 with a converted catcher in left and a converted first baseman (Belt) in right?

The bigger issue is that moving Posey out of the catcher position effectively closes the door on the Giants being players in two of the biggest potential free agents of next offseason — Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder.

But even if Giants don’t succeed in landing one of those big bats, there are still better options on the free agent market among outfielders than you would find among free-agent catchers.

Playing Posey anywhere other than catcher really only leaves one position where the Giants can look to improve their offense — shortstop. But would the Giants really make a move to sign someone like Jimmy Rollins or Jose Reyes if they feel that Brandon Crawford is their shortstop of the future?

So, even if they really wanted to move Posey to another spot on the diamond, the Giants likely wouldn’t do it in 2012.