2016 Fantasy Baseball: Breakout Candidate — Joe Panik
Sometimes teams don’t give you a lot of options when it comes to breakout candidates. The Giants are one of those teams. This isn’t to say that the Giants are a bad team. Obviously, you don’t win three World Series titles in the decade when you are a bad team. The reverse is obviously the case. Most of their players have already broken out, so picking one to break out is rather difficult.
Joe Panik is not a breakout candidate in the traditional sense, but he is a guy that flies underneath the radar. He has hit better than .300 the past two seasons in a time when very few hitters hit better than .300. Some of that can be attributed to good batted ball luck, but most of it can be attributed to his ability to make contact.
For whatever reason, fantasy owners still overlooked him. Part of it could be attributed to the fact that the Giants still have not given him full playing time. The other part is that Panik has neither elite power nor elite speed. While this would rightfully bar him from being an elite fantasy prospect, he still should be among the top half of fantasy second baseman in the game.
Where he has been
Lacking elite power or speed is not necessarily a death sentence for fantasy relevance. The key to staying relevant is to become elite in one of the other three categories. Luckily for Panik, he already plays on a good team, so he could possibly score plenty of runs or drive in more than the typical second baseman. However, the biggest opportunity is to continue to get on base and hit for average.
Panik’s walk rate in conjunction with his ability to hit for average makes him a very attractive fantasy prospect in six category leagues. Moreover, when you are a top of the order hitter on a good team, a high OBP can lead to more run scoring opportunities. The experts all agree that he won’t have the same batted ball luck next season, but they do see him getting on base at a healthy rate.
Where he could go
Like in real baseball, it is impossible to have an all-star at every position in fantasy baseball. Sometimes you need a player that won’t kill you in any individual category. The experts are bearish on Panik in the future, but even if they are correct, you can plug him in at second base and limp along. He won’t kill you in any of the categories and will give you some decent run production.
Mind you, you would only start Panik if you plan on punting second base. You don’t necessarily have to punt any position on draft day, but every good fantasy player finds themselves punting at least one position on draft day. A player like Panik could be a decent option for the player that chooses to punt second base.
A Rosy Picture
In some ways, the experts numbers look a little better. He will drive in more runs according to them and steal more bases. Still, getting an elite batting average (boy have times changed) is enough to overcome that. He has had a healthy line drive rate at the big league level and there is no reason why that shouldn’t continue. A healthy line drive rate helps boost a player’s BABIP. He could very well continue to hit well over .300 on balls in play.