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Top pick eager to play, signs with Giants

Top pick eager to play, signs with Giants

Top pick eager to play, signs with Giants
SAN FRANCISCO -- Joe Panik says he is ready to go right to work, and he can do that now that the Giants' first-round pick in this week's First-Year Player Draft agreed to terms on a signing bonus Saturday.

Panik, a shortstop out of St. John's University who was the 29th overall selection, was at AT&T Park with his parents for the occasion of his signing Saturday, donning a Giants jersey and cap in the dugout of the defending World Series champions.

"I'm ready to play. I wanted to get it going," Panik said of his quick signing.

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The Giants have not announced the terms of the signing bonus, but based on slotting recommendations the bonus is expected to be around $1 million. Only one other first-round pick -- the Padres' Cory Spangenburg, the No. 10 overall selection -- has signed.

Giants vice president of baseball operations Bobby Evans said the reasons the team and their top pick agreed to terms so quickly are simple.

"I think he saw the two months of baseball ahead that he could take advantage of, and our dollars were close, so therefore we felt like we could get it done," Evans said.

Evans said Panik will start his pro career at Salem-Keizer of the short-season Class A Northwest League after reporting to the team's Spring Training facility in Arizona first. Evans also said the organization intends to keep Panik as a shortstop, although scouting reports have suggested he might be moved to second base based on his arm strength.

"We believe he can play short and he's going to stay there," Evans said.

Being from St. John's, the natural comparison for Panik has been former Giants shortstop Rich Aurilia, also a St. John's product, along with former Major League pitchers Frank Viola and John Franco.

Evans said the comparison to Aurilia only goes so far.

"Joe's game's a little more gap to gap and he's a left-handed hitter," Evans said. "But, you know what, he looked at that wall as soon as he walked out here, so I think he's probably starting to have some ideas about what might be in the future."

Panik became the first middle infielder since Royce Clayton in 1988 the Giants drafted with their first overall selection. He's just the fourth infielder selected by the Giants in the first round since 1985, joining Will Clark (1985), Matt Williams (1986) and Clayton (1988).

Panik, 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds, led the Big East Conference his junior season with 60 runs scored and a .509 on-base percentage, and tied for the highest batting average at .398. He was named to the 2011 All-Big East First-Team as well as the 2011 Big East All-Tournament Team.

Panik played in the Cape Cod League last summer, batting .276 with a .384 on-base percentage and .372 slugging percentage, registering the best walk-to-strikeout ratio of any player with more than 100 at-bats.

That gave him valuable experience using a wooden bat, and after a successful spring for St. John's he's heading into his professional career confident he can make the transition.

"I feel like I'm ready to go on and handle the wood bat professionally," Panik said.

Meanwhile, Panik is prepared to just go about his business in the Minor Leagues, putting in the time and hoping for the day when he can return to the Giants' dugout as a player.

"I think I just need to work hard," Panik said of his summer ahead. "That's just the way I was raised, and if I work hard I think I can work my way up the organization."

John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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