Here's what to watch for in Giants camp this spring

February 14th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Maria Guardado's Giants Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Spring Training has finally arrived for the Giants, who will debut plenty of new faces as they prepare to enter a new era under first-year manager Bob Melvin.

Center fielder Jung Hoo Lee, slugger Jorge Soler, right-hander Jordan Hicks, left-hander Robbie Ray and catcher Tom Murphy are among San Francisco’s notable offseason additions, though the club might not be done making changes as it looks to compete in the loaded National League West.

While the Giants continue to put the finishing touches on their roster, here’s a look at three storylines to follow in camp this year:

1. Is ready to become the everyday shortstop?
Barring a late trade for an established infielder such as the Brewers’ Willy Adames or the Padres’ Ha-Seong Kim, the Giants appear committed to giving the 22-year-old Luciano a chance to succeed Brandon Crawford as their starting shortstop in 2024.

Ranked the Giants’ No. 2 prospect by MLB Pipeline, Luciano has been one of the organization’s most highly touted players since he received a $2.6 million signing bonus as an international free agent in 2018. Still, many scouts outside the organization believe Luciano will eventually have to move off shortstop and shift to third base or right field due to his fringy speed and range.

Luciano showed flashes of his tantalizing offensive potential in his brief 14-game stint with the Giants last year, though he’s been slowed by injuries over the past two seasons, so he’ll have to stay healthy to win an everyday job this spring.

San Francisco doesn’t have much of a safety net behind him at the moment, though Thairo Estrada, Casey Schmitt, Brett Wisely, Tyler Fitzgerald and newly acquired utility man Otto Lopez will be among the options to serve as the backup shortstop this year.

2. How will Lee handle the transition from the KBO to the Majors?
Lee, who joined the Giants on a six-year, $113 million deal on Dec. 14, posted an eye-popping .340/.407/.491 slash line during his seven seasons in the Korea Baseball Organization, though he’s likely to experience an adjustment period as he acclimates to the higher velocity from Major League pitchers.

Still, the Giants are confident Lee’s elite bat-to-ball skills will help him develop into a productive MLB hitter and replicate the success enjoyed by Kim, his former Kiwoom Heroes teammate who delivered a breakout campaign for the Padres last year.

"He once told me I will see the type of pitching that I've never faced before in my life," Lee told reporters during a press conference at Incheon International Airport earlier this month (hat-tip to Jeeho Yoo of Yonhap News for the translation). "He said I will have to see it to believe it myself. So I am going to have to be really prepared.

"Since I've never played ball in the U.S., I can't predict how well I'll do there. My primary goal is to make adjustments. Once I grow accustomed to the new league, then I will be able to start carving out my own presence."

3. How will the starting rotation hold up behind ?
Webb returns to anchor the starting staff, but the Giants will be relying heavily on a converted reliever (Hicks) and three relatively unproven arms (Kyle Harrison, Keaton Winn and Tristan Beck) to cover a ton of innings until Alex Cobb (left hip surgery) and Ray (Tommy John surgery) are ready to return to the mound.

Despite their limited track records, Harrison, Winn and Beck each showed promise after making their Major League debuts last year, so they could mark the beginning of a new wave of pitching that’s working its way up through the organization. The Giants have a sizable crop of young pitching prospects in big league camp this spring, including Carson Whisenhunt (No. 3), Mason Black (No. 9), Hayden Birdsong (No. 10) and Landen Roupp (No. 15), all of whom could become rotation options by the end of the year.

“From a pure stuff, makeup and preparation standpoint, we think those guys all have ingredients to continue to develop,” president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said recently. “Certainly, breaking in at the big league level as a pitcher is no easy task. It’s especially challenging in the role as a starter, but we still feel really good about our pitching infrastructure, our ballpark, which creates a little margin for error for young guys, and obviously, having Patrick [Bailey] as our No. 1 catcher behind the plate. That all kind of creates a good environment to break in young pitchers.”