Luciano looks to build off first full season: 'I feel great'

March 7th, 2022

PHOENIX -- Marco Luciano admits that the toll of his first full Minor League season caught up with him toward the end of his 2021 campaign, but he didn’t take much time to relax once the offseason began.

Luciano, a 20-year-old shortstop who is ranked the Giants’ No. 1 prospect by MLB Pipeline, took only one week off before getting back to work. He incorporated more cardio and shoulder work into his regimen to improve his overall conditioning, which he hopes will help him better withstand the grueling nature of a full season in 2022.

“It’s fantastic to see how he works,” said Double-A skipper Dennis Pelfrey, who managed Luciano at High-A Eugene last year. “That’s what gets lost -- how he works and how determined he is to be really good. I think that, in itself, kind of takes care of the development, really.”

Luciano’s work ethic is one of the many reasons he’s such an exciting prospect for the Giants, who signed the native of San Francisco de Macorís, Dominican Republic, for $2.6 million in 2018. With freakish bat speed, tremendous raw power and impressive athleticism, Luciano makes it easy to project a bright future for him in San Francisco.

Luciano officially returned to action on Saturday, when the Giants opened Minor League camp at their new facility at Papago Park, where A’s Minor Leaguers used to train. He took two at-bats during a simulated game played at a field with the exact dimensions of Candlestick Park. Luciano ripped a single to left-center field in his first trip to the plate.

“I feel good,” Luciano said in Spanish. “I think I’m preparing for the season the way I want to. I’ve been here for around a month preparing, and I feel great.”

Luciano will be aiming to build off his challenging 2021 season, which saw him excel at Low-A San Jose but struggle to adjust to the more advanced competition at High-A Eugene. After posting a slash line of .278/.373/.556 with 18 home runs over 70 games with San Jose, Luciano slashed .217/.283/.295 with one home run and 54 strikeouts over 36 games at Eugene, where he was the youngest player in High-A West.

Luciano said he believes fatigue played a factor in his struggles. He appeared in only 47 games during his professional debut in 2019 and then saw the entire 2020 Minor League season wiped out by the pandemic.

“I have to learn how to handle that,” Luciano said. “It’s going to be one of my challenges this year. I didn’t change my diet or anything, but I tried to work on my physical conditioning to get stronger.”

Luciano will also have to adjust to more elite pitching, but he showed improvement once Eugene reached the playoffs, going 6-for-15 with a double, a triple and a homer over four games to help the Emeralds clinch the High-A West championship.

“It’s a big jump for anybody,” Pelfrey said. “You can look at the stats and say that he struggled a little bit, but I think a lot of players really embrace that because you learn a lot faster. I think if we had a month left in the season last year at Eugene, you would have seen a guy there who really tore up the High-A league we had up there.

“Right there in the playoffs, he really started clicking a little bit. He hit a huge homer for us. I think that really shot him into the offseason on a really high note. I think you’re going to see a lot more of that from him, as far as the growth.”

Luciano said he is focused on cutting down on strikeouts, making more contact and putting the ball in play more, which he hopes to accomplish with a more open batting stance this year. The ultimate goal, of course, is to reach the big leagues. Last spring, Luciano said he believed he’d need one full season in the Minors before he’d be ready for the Majors, though 2023 might be a more realistic timetable since he’s likely to open this year at High-A Eugene.

“The goal,” Luciano said, “is the same: try to improve as quickly as possible, make adjustments and leave the rest in God’s hands.”