Toronto Blue Jays: Veteran Joe Panik is starting to find a groove
Signed by the Toronto Blue Jays during the 2019-2020 off-season, Joe Panik had a slow start to the season but is now starting to put the ball in play when the Blue Jays needed him most.
A first-round pick by the San Fransisco Giants in 2011, Joe Panik spent a majority of his time at second base during his six and half year tenure in California. Panik would be released by the Giants in August of 2019, finishing the season with the New York Mets before joining the Toronto Blue Jays prior to the 2020 season via free agency.
To begin the 2020 season, Panik was fighting for a spot on the Blue Jays bench, a veteran presence to help support the young core on the infield. Since Bo Bichette went down with an injury earlier this season, Panik has seen an increase in playing time, playing almost daily since August 15th whether it be as a starter or late-inning replacement.
In 29 games this season, the Yonkers, New York native has slashed a respectable .247/.340/.306 (prior to Saturday’s game) with 0 home runs and only 5 RBI. He’s struck out 21 times while also walking 12 splitting time at 2B, 3B, SS, and also as the DH.
Panik would have a not so great start to the year, batting a mere .196/.274/.232 through his first 20 games with 0 RBI. To be honest, I thought he was a potential candidate to be designated for assignment, but September proved to be a crucial month for the left-handed batter.
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Through 8 games, Panik has seen his average climb to .247 but has also accumulated all of his 5 RBI’s during that time. He has stuck out 6 times during those 8 games while seeing his average and on-base percentage continue to climb above the .200 and .300 mark respectively. What’s even more impressive is Panik’s ability to find a hole and produce hits when they are needed, allowing the Blue Jays to start a rally or move a base runner over to get runs on the board or in scoring position.
While this may not seem super important, with the Blue Jays dealing with multiple injuries in various areas of the diamond, having a veteran like Panik producing ‘off the bench’ can only allow manager Charlie Montoyo to play with the lineup to produce wins day in and day out.
This allows Cavan Biggio to move to the right field to cover for the injured Teoscar Hernandez, allowing Montoyo to put either Panik or newly acquired infielder Jonathan Villar to split the reps at second base with Bichette returning from injury. Both haven’t been a stalwart defensively, but Villar has run into some base running outs this season while one could argue that Panik just edges Villar out in terms of defensive stability.
At first glance, it looked like Joe Panik may have been considered more of a liability than an asset when taking the field for the Blue Jays. If he can continue to produce offensively like he has through the start of September, the Blue Jays will have a great option to use off the bench in an effort towards securing a spot to play October baseball this season.