Boosted by family dream, Astros prospect takes next step in farm system climb

May 8th, 2024

FREDERICKSBURG, Va. -- As a young ballplayer, Waner Luciano spent months away from his home in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, for the chance to play baseball in the United States. And he did that for one main reason -- to make the dream he and his dad, Robinson, shared of signing and playing the game come true.

“My dad played. He didn’t get to sign, but he was always a baseball player,” Luciano said in Spanish. “He was the one who gave me the news. [The Astros] called him and that was when I was able to sign.”

It has only been just over two years since the 19-year-old signed with Houston for $45,000 in 2022. The ability to adapt on the fly has helped the Astros’ No. 18 prospect make a seamless transition from his rookie season to now his first full season in pro ball with Single-A Fayetteville.

“It’s the same game,” he said. “Now it’s just in front of fans. … It’s something I’ve always wanted to experience because I hadn’t gotten the chance to play in front of so many fans before. Now it feels good and I like it."

Luciano began turning heads his first two pro seasons, garnering All-Star honors in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League in 2022 before following up with an even more impressive '23 campaign in the Florida Complex League. In Florida, the right-handed hitter slashed .247/.345/.476 with 10 home runs and 29 RBIs across 45 games.

The 6-foot-1, 170-pound Luciano got some experience at Major League camp this spring. While he was a little nervous and wanted to do whatever he could to impress, Luciano adapted and began to feel more comfortable in camp as time went on. He made eight appearances at the plate in six Grapefruit League games, slashing .125/.222/.250.

“It was a beautiful experience and something I could not imagine,” he said. “I really enjoyed it.”

Luciano soaked up all the advice of veterans that he could during his time in Spring Training. The most critical advice he received was about doing everything he can to stay healthy. One of the best ways to do so is a pregame workout routine that Luciano follows religiously: working out in the gym for 30 minutes to warm up his body and strengthen his muscles before heading out onto the field.

Luciano said the biggest difference between playing in the DSL and FCL vs. a month in Minor League Baseball is the aggressiveness of the pitchers.

“They look to get you out -- from there, you just have to try to do your best,” he said.

When going up against strong pitchers, Luciano defers to asking teammates for advice. His trust in them started to take hold when he played in the Dominican Republic and has continued to be part of his process as he's risen through the system.

With the proper support system and his ability to adjust quickly, Luciano has begun to flourish with the Woodpeckers, showcasing glimpses of his plus power at the plate. He hit his first home run of the season against Fredericksburg on April 17, a clout that made its way over the fence in left-center field.

“When the pressure of affiliate ball kind of subsides and the trial is over, you’ll get to see his personality come out a little bit more,” said Fayetteville hitting coach Andrew Cersci. “He’s a fun guy to be around and it’s very hard to come by.”

With the long road of pro baseball still ahead of him, Luciano’s ability to adapt quickly and overcome difficulties will continue to help him fulfill the family dream.

Dad will be watching.