Early on in the spring, the Blue Jays are seeing an effective Joe Panik, which means he could force his way onto their roster
The Toronto Blue Jays signed Joe Panik to a minor league deal this winter and they extended an invite to Spring Training. From the beginning this seemed like a signing that, at worst, provided the Buffalo Bisons with a second baseman and at best, provides the Blue Jays with an interesting bench option. And, so far, in the (VERY) early goings, it looks like there is a chance the latter could happen.
Before continuing, it has to be acknowledged that Panik has 7 at bats in 2020, so the obvious small sample size caveat applies lest we make a bigger deal out of his playing time than we should. 7 at bats is not a lot to base much of anything on. When you add it to the last couple seasons that saw him put up 77 and 76 wRC+, we really shouldn’t get carried away and expect Panik to single-handedly bring the Blue Jays to the postseason.
However, if he can show that his bat is serviceable, he could force his way onto this Blue Jays roster. So far this spring, he is doing his best to make this happen. In those 7 at bats, he is slashing .429/.545/.857 with 3 RBI, a HR and 3 walks. Obviously, Panik will not maintain that over a full season, or even a full month. It’s a good streak for him. But, just like when he first signed, one has to wonder if he can salvage his offense and what that means for his spot on this roster.
Right now, Fangraphs has Panik making the big league club and being on the bench. They expect that Panik and Brandon Drury will be the infielders, which is interesting. Panik has some minor league experience at shortstop, but not since 2014. He has played first, but only 9 innings in 2018, so he’s lacking in positional versatility. For his part, Drury can play every position on the infield, but has the most experience at third. Could this be enough infield depth on the bench for the Blue Jays? If everyone is healthy and Panik can bring his bat back, it just might be.
IF he does make the team, there will be roster implications, to be sure. Currently, he is not on the 40man roster, so the first thing the Blue Jays would have to decide is who to remove from there. The club could have an easy decision if someone is injured and needs an extended IL trip. For example, Ryan Borucki and his elbow could be an issue for a while, so that spot could be used for Panik. Barring an injury, the club would have to decide to remove someone.
If Drury doesn’t have a Spring Training that shows he can improve on his Ryan Goins-esque 2019 showing, perhaps, the club could send him packing…or at least expose him to waivers. His $2M salary make that an interesting move. But, Drury is not the only one on the 40 man bubble. In fact, there are probably several ahead of him. For example, do the Blue Jays really need a spot for Billy McKinney?
Joe Panik was an interesting signing at the time because he was someone who could hold a big league spot signed on a minor league deal. Should he continue to hit, he could force his way onto the Blue Jays’ roster, which can only happen if others struggle or are hurt. If you’re him, you’d hate for it to happen that way, but you also wouldn’t lose too much sleep over it.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.