Already an accomplished player at St. John's, Panik took another step toward that fulfilling that dream Monday as the Giants drafted the left-handed-hitting shortstop with the 29th overall pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft.
"He's one of the big guys at St. John's that you've always heard about, one of the legends," said Panik, the first middle infielder selected by the Giants in the first round since 1988. "Now, it's almost like following in his foosteps. Hopefully someday I'll get up to San Francisco and leave my mark as he did."
Panik is the latest in a line of consecutive first-rounders that includes Tim Lincecum (10th overall, 2006), Madison Bumgarner (10th, 2007), Buster Posey (fifth, 2008), Zack Wheeler (sixth, 2009) and Gary Brown (24th, 2010). Given their reputation for drafting such talented players, and, of course, their 2010 World Series title, Panik admitted he was shocked when he heard his name called.
|1||PIT||RHP Gerrit Cole|
|2||SEA||LHP Danny Hultzen|
|3||ARI||RHP Trevor Bauer|
|4||BAL||RHP Dylan Bundy|
|5||KC||OF Bubba Starling|
|6||WAS||3B Anthony Rendon|
|7||ARI||RHP Archie Bradley|
|8||CLE||SS Francisco Lindor|
|9||CHC||SS Javier Baez|
|10||SD||2B Cory Spangenberg|
|11||HOU||OF George Springer|
|12||MIL||RHP Taylor Jungmann|
|13||NYM||OF Brandon Nimmo|
|14||FLA||RHP Jose Fernandez|
|15||MIL||LHP Jed Bradley|
|16||LAD||LHP Chris Reed|
|17||LAA||1B C.J. Cron|
|18||OAK||RHP Sonny Gray|
|19||BOS||RHP Matt Barnes|
|20||COL||LHP Tyler Anderson|
|21||TOR||RHP Tyler Beede|
|22||STL||2B Kolten Wong|
|23||WAS||RHP Alex Meyer|
|24||TB||RHP Taylor Guerrieri|
|25||SD||RHP Joe Ross|
|26||BOS||C Blake Swihart|
|27||CIN||RHP Robert Stephenson|
|28||ATL||LHP Sean Gilmartin|
|29||SF||SS Joe Panik|
|30||MIN||SS Levi Michael|
|31||TB||OF Mikie Mahtook|
|32||TB||SS Jake Hager|
|33||TEX||LHP Kevin Matthews|
"The Giants are a first-class organization," Panik said. "To be their first pick, I'm excited beyond belief. You dream about this as a kid, and finally hearing Bud Selig call your name is truly an honor."
The 6-foot-1, 193-pound Panik said he hopes to sign quickly with the Giants. Giants special assistant John Barr, who oversees the club's scouting and the Draft, said he hoped to see Panik on the field as a member of the Giants organization this year, and Panik seemed to indicate that would happen.
Panik described himself as an offensive-minded shortstop and a "tough, hard-nosed player. I'm not a very flashy player, but I play the game hard, I play the game right, I give it my all, day-in and day-out."
In his junior season, the left-handed hitter with a short, smooth swing batted .398 with a .509 on-base percentage and .642 slugging percentage, hitting 10 home runs, 19 doubles and three triples with 57 RBIs. He stole 21 bases on 27 attempts and committed 14 fielding errors en route to being named a Golden Spikes semifinalist.
Barr said he can see Panik carrying over that success into the pros. Panik can play either shortstop or second base, though scouts' assessment of his throwing arm tends to suggest he will end up at second. Barr said Panik's high on-base percentage and gap power will make him an effective threat at the plate as well.
"I think he might end up hitting in the two-hole. I don't want to put that on him, though," Barr said. "When we had our discussions, and with the way he swings the bat, we could see him being an offensive middle infielder. That's what we see: a left-handed, offensive middle infielder."
Scouts have offered praise for Panik's bat -- his best tool -- as Barr said he swings with authority, makes solid contact and is able to hit to all fields. Despite some of his physical limitations, the shortstop was considered one of the safest, most low-risk options in the early rounds.
He underwent labrum surgery after his freshman season at St. John's but earned Louisville Slugger Third Team All-America honors as a junior, also picking up a First-Team All-Big East selection after being among the conference's best in nearly every offensive category. The Giants firmly believe in the best-player-available philosophy, and Barr said they were excited Panik was available at No. 29.
"You gather a whole bunch of guys in the playground, and it's a pickup game that's going to be played five years from now," Barr said. "You have to select from the pool of players that are there, and you can't be just saying, 'I want to go after a certain type of player,' because if they're not available, then they're not there. You select from the pool itself."
Live coverage of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft resumes at 9 a.m. PT Tuesday on MLB.com, where fans will receive exclusive coverage of Day 2 and 3, featuring a live pick-by-pick stream, expert commentary and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of every Draft-eligible player. You can also keep up to date at Draft Central and by following @MLBDraft on Twitter. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.
Panik's patience at the plate and awareness of the strike zone are two of his stronger traits as a hitter, and those characteristics shined through when he played in the Cape Cod League in 2010. Panik batted .276 with a .384 on-base percentage and .372 slugging percentage, and had the best walk-to-strikeout ratio of any player with more than 100 at-bats.
It may seem odd that the Giants used such a high pick on a shortstop when they recently promoted Brandon Crawford, whom many believe to be the club's shortstop of the future. But, Barr said, it was simply a matter of stockpiling the best possible players for the future -- and they certainly view Panik as one of them.
"You still have to end up accumulating talent. That's the key," Barr said. "You're accumulating talent within your Minor Leagues so you give your general manager, Brian Sabean, the flexibility to either bring somebody up or use them as trades to fill in spots. It's not so much, 'What do we need today?' It's really, you're bringing talent into the organization, and the greater the talent you have in your Minor Leagues, the better your big league team will be."
Adam Berry is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.