The youngsters were among the key factors in the Giants' success that general manager Brian Sabean cited in a succinct overview of the ballclub, San Francisco's seventh postseason qualifier in his 18-year tenure.
"They more than held their own," Sabean said Saturday. "That's something none of us expected. ... You just don't see guys jump into the fire like that with that little Minor League experience. It's pretty amazing to think they can perform on this stage and contribute."
Panik has been especially impressive. Entering Sunday's regular-season finale, his .303 batting average in 72 games exceeded his .296 career average in the Minors.
"He has a calmness about him," Sabean said. "He's almost like a veteran at a young age."
Another essential addition to the roster, veteran right-hander Jake Peavy, arrived in a deal preceding the Trade Deadline, the likes of which Sabean has engineered several times to strengthen contending clubs at midseason. Filling the void left by Cain, Peavy went 6-1 with a 1.35 ERA in his last nine starts.
"He allowed us not to skip a beat," Sabean said. "Now that we've seen what Peavy's been able to do, it's been a real shot in the arm because we wouldn't be in this position without him."
The leading constants for the Giants were catcher Buster Posey, who duplicated his 2012 National League Most Valuable Player production during a late-season surge; right fielder Hunter Pence, who again played every game while ranking among the league leaders in multiple offensive categories; and left-hander Madison Bumgarner, who made his second All-Star team and won the Willie Mac Award as the team's most inspirational player while finishing 18-10.
"You need your core guys to be a mainstay," Sabean said, adding that Posey and Pence provided "the glue" while Pagan, Belt and first baseman-left fielder Michael Morse were sidelined -- sometimes simultaneously.
Sabean expressed pride in the Giants' ability to reach the postseason, especially with parity reigning in baseball.
"This is a tough league to negotiate," he said. "Even teams with losing records much like San Diego have good pitching staffs or good starters that you have to navigate. I think our league especially is pitching-centric. It was a series-to-series, week-to-week proposition. Some weeks we did better than most, some weeks we [didn't] because it's tough to win games now in the National League."