Lee rips impressive 418-foot HR; Luciano makes debut

March 1st, 2024

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- is known more for his contact than his power, but the 25-year-old center fielder flashed some impressive pop in the Giants’ 2-1 loss to the D-backs on Thursday afternoon at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

Batting leadoff for only the second time this spring, Lee doubled on an 0-2 curveball from Arizona right-hander Ryne Nelson in the top of the first and then drove a 94.7 mph fastball over the right-field fence for a solo shot in the third. Lee’s first Cactus League homer left his bat at 109.7 mph and traveled a Statcast-projected 418 feet.

Lee wasn’t sure if the ball was a home run off the bat, so he hustled out of the box and went from home to first in just 4.1 seconds, resulting in an unusually speedy home run trot.

“I knew it was hard-hit,” Lee said via interpreter Justin Han. “The ball flew low, it didn’t fly high. It got some speed in the air and then it flew away, but I thought it was a double or a triple. That’s why I kept on running like that.”

There were some questions as to how Lee would fare against Major League pitching after spending his first seven professional seasons in the KBO, but he hasn’t missed a beat thus far, going 3-for-6 through his first two Cactus League games for the Giants.

“He’s gotten off to a nice little start, hasn’t he?” manager Bob Melvin said. “Fastballs, breaking balls, it seems like he’s on everything.”

Lee, who joined the Giants on a six-year, $113 million deal in December, said he primarily hit off machines over the offseason, so he’s hoping that work will continue to pay off as he sees more live pitching in the weeks leading up to Opening Day.

“Velocity is velocity, but the pitchers here in the Major Leagues are really tall, so their release point is really high,” Lee said. “That makes the ball look faster. They have different types of movement and travel really differently. What I’ve been doing all winter is working with all these kinds of stuff. I’m happy that it’s coming out as results, but I’ll need to see what’s going on in the future.”

Luciano debuts
, who is ranked the Giants’ No. 2 prospect by MLB Pipeline, has been slowed by a right hamstring issue this spring, but he finally got a chance to make his Cactus League debut on Thursday. The 22-year-old rookie got off to a bumpy start at shortstop, though, committing a two-out throwing error on Geraldo Perdomo’s routine grounder in the bottom of the first that resulted in an unearned run for starter Logan Webb.

“I know he wasn’t too happy about that one play,” said Webb, who was charged with two runs (one unearned) on three hits over three innings in his second outing of the spring. “But he’s a physical specimen. He’s always going to go out there and do his best. I was just excited to see him back out there.”

Melvin said one game wouldn’t impact Luciano’s standing, but it wasn’t a great first impression for a player who has been trying to dispel concerns about his ability to stick at shortstop.

Luciano remains the frontrunner to succeed Brandon Crawford as the Giants’ everyday shortstop this year, but the Giants also brought in some insurance in the form of Nick Ahmed, a two-time Gold Glove Award winner who signed a Minor League deal earlier this week.

Giants pitchers led the Majors with a 48.7 percent groundball rate in 2023, so they’ll need to play clean defense -- especially up the middle -- to maximize their run prevention efforts this year. Luciano’s miscue proved costly on Thursday, dropping the Giants to 0-4-2 through their first six exhibition games.

“We lost the game because we had two situational at-bats where we didn’t get a run in and we threw a ball away and made an error,” Melvin said. “It’s Spring Training right now. A lot of these things we’re going to have to do as a team to win. The score could have been completely different if we don’t throw a ball away and we have two situational at-bats where we get a run in. But [Luciano] looked like he was more comfortable after that first ball.”