Luciano ready to seize Giants shortstop job

February 23rd, 2024

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Now that the Brandon Crawford era has seemingly come to a close, the Giants have a vacancy at shortstop for the first time in over a decade. They have a clear successor in mind: , the 22-year-old rookie who has been widely viewed as one of the organization’s top prospects since he signed as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2018.

Replacing a franchise icon is no easy task, but Luciano -- the No. 2 prospect in the Giants organization, according to MLB Pipeline -- is taking the challenge in stride.

“I just go out and have fun like I always do,” Luciano said in Spanish. “I play baseball to have fun. Whatever happens, happens. I’m going to give it my best, and they’ll make the decision they have to make.”

The job is Luciano’s for the taking, though the Giants still want him to earn his spot and prove that he’s capable of holding it down this spring. While Luciano currently sits atop the shortstop depth chart, the Giants have a few other young players who will also be competing for at-bats there, including Casey Schmitt, Tyler Fitzgerald and Otto Lopez.

“You never come into camp with a rookie and say this is your job, period,” manager Bob Melvin said. “We want Luciano to grasp it and take it, but he’s going to have to do that. There’s some other guys that can play that position and we’ll see how it goes. As we sit here right now, it’s a great opportunity for Marco.”

Many scouts outside the organization doubt that the 6-foot-1 Luciano -- who said he bulked up to 216 pounds over the offseason -- will stick at shortstop for the long haul, but the Giants were encouraged by what they saw during his 14-game stint in the Majors in 2023.

Luciano hit .231/.333/.308 with three doubles over 45 plate appearances, though he recorded an average exit velocity of 93 mph, which would have ranked 14th among qualified MLB hitters last year. He also took big steps forward defensively, which the Giants hope he’ll be able to continue by working with new third base coach Matt Williams this spring.

“I think a lot of it just comes from what we saw at the end of last year,” president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said. “I think he showed a lot of poise, both defensively and offensively, when he came up. We’re asking a lot from him just because there isn’t a lot of upper-level experience, certainly not a lot of big league experience. But again, from what we saw, we certainly think he can handle it. Even getting exposed to a new coaching staff, what they’ll bring to the table this camp, I think can just help him get even further.”

To ensure he could hit the ground running this spring, Luciano returned home to play winter ball for the Leones del Escogido of the Dominican Professional Baseball League, where he got to know Lopez and several other players with big league experience. Luciano hit only .170/.339/.255 with one homer and 18 strikeouts in 59 plate appearances across 18 games, but he said he was still grateful for the opportunity to soak up as much knowledge as possible from his veteran teammates.

“It was a great experience,” Luciano said. “I got to spend a lot of time with players who have experience in Japan, Korea, the Dominican and the big leagues. I think being able to take those pieces from them and apply them to my game is going to make me a better player.

“You never stop learning,” he added. “You’re always trying to improve something. You work on one thing and then you have to work on something else. I think staying disciplined is how you’re going to get results. You have to work hard every single day.”

Luciano missed most of big league camp last year due to a stress fracture in his lower back, but he’s expected to see plenty of action once Cactus League games begin Saturday.

Outfielder Luis Matos, who has known Luciano since they both signed with the Giants as teenagers in 2018, said he’s confident Luciano will seize the opportunity that’s in front of him and establish himself as a core piece for the club in 2024 and beyond.

“I think he deserves it,” Matos said in Spanish. “He’s worked really hard since we signed to be here.”