'Humble' Luciano on fast track

March 11th, 2021

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- At 19 years old, is the youngest player in Giants camp this year, but he’s already achieved his fair share of internet fame. Within the last year, he’s hit two home runs that have gone viral -- a shot off 27-year-old reliever Rico Garcia during live batting practice at Oracle Park last summer, and an absolute rocket that left his bat at 119 mph during instructional league last fall.

Given his loud tools, it’s no surprise that Luciano’s ranking on top prospects lists keeps climbing. The highly touted shortstop came in at No. 16 on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100, and at No. 1 on the Giants’ Top 30 prospects list that was released on Thursday.

The Giants haven’t signed a homegrown international All-Star since Pablo Sandoval in 2003, but Luciano, who went 0-1 with a strikeout in the Giants' 5-4 loss to the Angels on Thursday hails from San Francisco de Macorís, Dominican Republic, could be poised to finally break that drought. Since receiving a $2.6 million signing bonus from the Giants in July 2018, Luciano has worked hard to chart his path to stardom, flashing the type of power, athleticism and baseball instincts that suggest he could be an impact player at the big league level before long.

“He knows he’s good. He knows he’s really good, but he stays humble,” Giants infielder/outfielder Mauricio Dubón said in Spanish. “That guy is going to be a future star.”

While he hasn’t played above short-season ball, Luciano believes that facing more advanced competition during Summer Camp and at the Giants’ alternate training site in Sacramento last year could help speed up his timetable to the Majors.

“I think I’ll need one more year because I haven’t played a full season yet,” Luciano said in Spanish. “I think one more season should be enough. If I stay on my current track, I think I’ll have everything I need in my game, and I’ll be ready for when the team needs me.”

Breaking into the Majors at 20 years old might seem like a lofty goal, but the rise of young stars like the Nationals’ Juan Soto and the Padres’ Fernando Tatis Jr. helps give Luciano confidence that he can follow a similar trajectory and emerge as a possible successor to Brandon Crawford, who is entering the final year of his contract with the Giants.

“It motivates me,” Luciano said. “It shows me that it doesn’t matter how old you are. You just have to do your job on the field and give your best.”

While the pandemic led to the cancellation of the Minor League season last year, Luciano said he felt he was able to continue to grow and push forward his development in Sacramento.

“I wish I could have competed for a whole season, but I was able to go to the alternate training site, and I got to play against players who were a lot more experienced than me,” Luciano said. “The coaches were helping me as well, so it was a productive year in spite of everything. I learned a lot last year.”

Luciano said he worked harder than ever this offseason and added seven pounds of muscle to his frame. He reported to Spring Training at 208 pounds, drawing praise from Giants manager Gabe Kapler for his conditioning.

“I actually think a little bit more maturity in the lower half physically, which is sort of what we’ve seen so far in how he’s shown up, is going to play really well for him at shortstop,” Kapler said. “We’re going to try to get as many looks at him in the middle of the dirt as we possibly can.”

Luciano has looked smooth at shortstop and collected his first hit of the spring, an infield single off left-hander Reiver Sanmartin, on Sunday at Goodyear Ballpark. While he was relieved to get the first one out of the way, Luciano also expressed dissatisfaction because he didn’t make good contact on the play.

He’s been working on his hitting after going 1-for-13 with 10 strikeouts over his first nine Cactus League games, but he said he’s been feeling great in his most recent batting practice sessions and feels the best is yet to come.

Kapler agreed.

“I think this is the right time to remind ourselves we have a young, developing prospect in Marco, who’s experiencing a lot of firsts right now, and part of that is dealing with some failure,” Kapler said. “I would remind everybody that six, seven, 10, 15, 20 plate appearances and a handful of innings on defense really doesn’t say much relative to his larger body of work. I would suggest we’re very confident we’re going to get improvements.”

It’s clear that Luciano’s hunger to improve and develop into a big leaguer isn’t going away. Neither is his appetite for Chipotle, his favorite restaurant, though he said he’s had to cut back on his daily visits due to the pandemic.

“It got harder because of the virus,” Luciano said. “I try not to go out. It’s not the same. If you order a burrito through Uber Eats, it doesn’t taste the same.”