Seeing Joe Panik fall to waivers would have been a major surprise just a year ago. But, in a season defined by change for the San Francisco Giants, his release is the latest indicator of a franchise headed in a new direction.
Change indeed, as he now finds himself hitting eighth in the surging Mets' lineup on Friday against the Nationals. The question is - what is he bringing to Flushing? When he's at his best, he can provide the Mets with another bat who can consistently get on base. It just depends which version of Panik the team is getting.
This season has been a letdown for the 28-year-old Panik, who is hitting .235 to go along with a .310 OBP. His disappointing 2019 campaign is on the heels of a season in which he hit .254 with just 18 extra base hits. So, why all the buzz around his addition? He has proven that he can be a very productive player.
Look towards his first two seasons in San Francisco. He finished sixth in National League Rookie of the Year voting after posting a .305 average through 73 games. Panik was an All-Star the very next season, finishing with a .312 average, 27 doubles and a .378 OBP.
There was a player that could provide coveted on-base skills and valuable defense. But, his initial success eluded him in 2016 after playing to the tune of a .239 average and .315 OBP. Those 2016 totals are quite similar to the numbers he's currently slashing at, .235/.310/.627.
Consistency, as one can guess, has long been Panik's trouble. The Mets will be hoping that he rediscovers his 2017 form, when he hit .288 with 53 RBI's, the highest total of his career.
If he gets right, he could provide an excellent bottom lineup presence for Mickey Callaway's lineup, an area typically held by the newly-released Adeiny Hechavarria and Todd Frazier. He'll get the benefit of the doubt, with little expectations surrounding him or his production.
For now, though, the team is taking a no-risk chance on a New York native (Hopewell Junction, N.Y.) who has shown glimpses of excellence throughout his six-year career. In the heat of a playoff push with a fresh start ahead, now is a great window for Panik to catch fire.
He'll get his chance to do just that on Friday night.