The San Francisco Giants are 43-26 and in first place in the National League West by 6.5 games even after the ninth inning collapse yesterday. The Giants have been winning despite having their second basemen batting sub 200 for most of the season.
Their starting second baseman, Brandon Hicks, is currently hitting 177 and striking out a ton. To put his strikeouts into perspective, he has struck out 70 times in 186 at bats. That’s 37.6 percent of the time. He does have 8 home runs and leads the Giants in walks, but the 177 average is something that is a glaring hole in the otherwise solid Giants lineup.
The first and most obvious way to fix the problem would be to make a trade at or around the trade deadline for somebody like Chase Utley, Ben Zobrist or Gordon Beckham, who have all been mentioned as possible targets of the Giants. All three of these guys would provide the Giants with an upgrade over what they currently have. Utley would certainly be the best out of the group, but it’s unknown, at least at this point, how much the Giants are willing to give up in order to get one of these guys, in particular Utley. If anybody can pull off a trade to shaft another teams’ farm system it’s Giants General Manager Brian Sabean ( see the Hunter Pence trade as a prime example).
The next alternative would have Marco Scutaro come back healthy, although that’s looking less and less likely as the days go by. Scutaro will return this season, but probably as more of a part time player than a full-time second baseman, so that’s not really something that the Giants should count on.
Even though the Giants have said they won’t do this, the option that’s going to be mentioned next is the best option for the team right now to fix their problem. What is it? Well, call up your top hitting prospect Joe Panik, who’s tearing up Triple A Fresno to the tune of a 319 average with 5 home runs and 42 RBI’S in only 69 games. Moreover, he has a 377 OBP and a 824 OPS as of last night. Although the Pacific Coast League is a very hitter friendly league, it’s still impressive what Panik is doing and he can’t be any worse than the combination of Hicks and Ehire Adrianza. The Giants wouldn’t lose anything by calling Panik up, giving him a run and then if he stinks send him back down to Fresno and make a trade for a second baseman at the trade deadline.
However, as previously mentioned, the Giants feel like they are fine at second base as Manager Bruce Bochy recently voiced his support of Hicks and said that he’s done a nice job for the Giants. Whether or not Bochy is honest in his support of Hicks, the Giants want to give Panik more at bats down in Fresno. Recently, Giants VP of baseball operations Bobby Evans said that the team has no intention of bringing Panik up as the Giants feel that this is sort of his breakout season, and he’s finally living up to the hype that the Giants had for him when they drafted him.
It’s a little difficult to take Evans seriously on this one as Panik is a career 295 minor league hitter with a 364 career OBP in the minors, so he’s been solid regardless of what the Giants say. Panik’s only bad season was last season in Richmond where he batted only 257 and struggled to hit for power and only had a 680 OPS. However, even if he comes up and is a 250 hitter in the majors that’ll be better than Hicks by far and considering that Panik hardly ever strikes out it makes him that much more valuable.
As any Giants fan would know, second base is a serious black hole in this lineup right now and it needs to be addressed sooner rather than later. What the Giants decide to do remains to be seen, but if they decide to ride the Hicks/Adrianza train until the trade deadline it could have an effect on the team’s overall winning during that stretch. If the Giants do decide to move on from those two, then we could either be saying welcome to San Francisco to someone via trade or Panik, which hopefully happens.