This 19-year-old has the makings of a star

June 2nd, 2021

He’s just 19 years old and has yet to play above Low-A, but Marco Luciano has all the makings of a star.

Some may argue it’s too early to label him a future All-Star or MVP candidate, but those who have been there since the beginning have known what everyone is now discovering.

“From the first time I saw him, at age 12, he showed a natural ability to do things very easily,” said Edwin “Ray” Castillo, Luciano’s trainer in the Dominican Republic. “After a year at my academy, he really started to develop and do special things. He hit the ball really hard against pitchers who were much older. … He separated himself from that group quickly.”

Almost as quickly as Castillo realized there was something special about the young shortstop, so, too, did Luciano.

"I was 14 when I realized I really had a chance to make baseball my career, because I was doing things a lot better than guys who were three years older,” Luciano said through a translator.

Castillo was the first to spot Luciano’s talent -- a happy accident as Castillo was on a trip to scout a different player -- but it didn’t take long for others to catch on.

Luciano, now the Giants' top prospect and No. 13 on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects list, promptly became the name to watch on the international market.

“When you watched him take batting practice, it was hard to believe he was 16,” Kyle Haines, the Giants’ director of player development, said. “But when you stood next to him and talked to him, you started to see his youth and how young he looked in the face and how skinny he was.”

The youth was obvious and so was the potential. Luciano’s frame and natural athleticism make it easy to project a bright future on the diamond.

“This kid had a fluid swing, he was a plus athlete,” Joe Salermo, the Giants’ director of international scouting, said. “That’s what we focused on and said, ‘This guy could explode.’ And when he exploded, we were right there on the scene to make him an offer.”

San Francisco landed Luciano for $2.6 million in 2018. If the seven-figure bonus wasn’t proof enough of the Giants belief in him, consider that the team had him bypass the Dominican Summer League. He came straight to the U.S. and made his professional debut in 2019, reaching the short-season Northwest League at just 17.

Luciano impressed at the alternate training site in 2020 and has stood out early this season, too.

“He’s got all the ingredients to become a pretty special player, especially in the batter’s box,” San Jose hitting coach Daniel Santin said.

Scouts rave about Luciano’s bat speed. He has an advanced approach for his age and his raw power is among the best in the Minors.

The tape-measure blasts and 100-mph exit velocities garner the bulk of the attention, but Luciano has also become a solid defender.

Questions about his ability to remain at short persist, but the Giants plan to keep him up the middle. If he has to move to third base or right field, his arm and bat would profile just fine.

“That’s probably the area he’s improved the most since we signed him,” Haines said of Luciano’s defense. “I think he has a chance to be a very nice, reliable player, maybe at any position on the field. I think shortstop is part of his … foreseeable future, and he’s a more than capable defender out there. He’s very sure-handed.”

The improvement is not a shock to anyone who understands his drive.

“He feels like he has a responsibility to himself to be all he can be and he knows the road to reaching his goals is a hard one,” Castillo said. “So, he works.”

In the offseason, Luciano returns to his home in the Dominican, where he trains at his old academy. With the same enthusiasm he had as a young kid who wanted nothing more than to play baseball every day, Luciano wakes up at 6 a.m., gets to the park around 7 a.m., goes through a hitting and fielding routine and then finishes up at the gym.

“I want to be the best,” Luciano said. “And to be the best, I have to outwork everyone.”

The Giants' top prospect has shown a willingness to put that work in and there are no signs of complacency. Of course, those who have seen him grow up wouldn’t expect anything else.

“When you combine tools and baseball skills, then you have something special,” Salermo said. “And that’s why Marco is special.”