Luciano swats slam, finding rhythm at High-A

August 31st, 2022

swatted his first professional grand slam on Aug. 19. He wasted little time accomplishing the feat again, doing so in the third inning for High-A Eugene against Everett on Tuesday night.

Luciano, the Giants’ top-ranked prospect, fouled off the first pitch of his second at-bat against AquaSox starter Juan Mercedes -- who tossed a seven-inning no-hitter earlier this season -- before digging back into the box. He did not miss the next pitch, clobbering the ball to left-center field, holding his follow through for good measure.

Playing in his first home game at PK Park since May 29, Luciano delivered what was ultimately the decisive blow in the Emeralds’ 6-1 win.

The all-around talent of Luciano, baseball’s No. 17 overall prospect per MLB Pipeline, remains tantalizing. His game is a blend of pizazz (see: the neon pink arm sleeve) and excellence (see: Tuesday’s shot soaring far beyond the left-center-field fence). 

“He works extremely hard,” hitting coach Cory Elasik said of Luciano. “He wants to be the best. He goes about his business like he is the best and he will outwork anybody.”

But a low back strain during the summer sidetracked Luciano’s 2022 campaign. In spite of that, he has returned to the Emeralds with renewed vigor. Both of his roundtrippers over the past two weeks have been of the grand slam variety, and he has hits in seven of his last eight games.

“He definitely has brought some leadership qualities back and has really taken some ownership of helping some guys -- especially the younger guys; he puts them on his shoulders and takes them with him,” Elasik said.

Setbacks have been presented to Luciano before. A heralded international signee in 2018, the native of San Francisco de Macoris, Dominican Republic, netted a whopping $2.6 million signing bonus and quickly flew up prospect rankings. 

After amassing a .930 OPS across 70 games at Single-A San Jose last year, Luciano earned a call to Eugene. He batted just .217 with one home run in 36 contests.

Fresh off turning 20 years old, the shortstop headed to the Arizona Fall League, which boasts a premier collection of Minor League talent. Across 21 games, he slashed .253/.356/.373 and struck out in 28 of his 87 plate appearances.

“It took him a little bit of time to adjust, it was a higher level,” Elasik said in regards to Luciano’s acclimation. “He came up with such press and news on him and a lot of eyes, that stuff can wear you out a little bit.” 

Those High-A hiccups have dissipated in 2022. In addition to his teammates gravitating toward him as a clubhouse leader, Luciano has led with his performance on the field. Tuesday’s slam marked his 10th homer with Eugene this year, with 40 percent of his hits going for extra bases. If he had enough at-bats to qualify, his slugging percentage (.511) and OPS (.863) would rank second in the Northwest League.

“He took his strength and conditioning to the next level,” Elasik said of Luciano. “I remember seeing him in camp in January and just how physical and filled out he was, it was refreshing to see. I think that’s why he has been able to sustain a lot of the success he had early on last year and the success he’s continuing to have this year.”