Image credit: Marco Luciano (Photo by Bill Mitchell)
Extended spring training is often the first opportunity for professional scouts to get their first, detailed looks at the premier talents from the most recent international class.
This spring, one of the main attractions has been Giants shortstop prospect Marco Luciano, who has been getting a lot of attention. So far, scouts are impressed with what they see in the 17-year-old Dominican Republic native whose $2.6 million contract was one of the top bonuses during last year’s international signing period.
Luciano is already ranked as the second-best prospect in the Giants’ organization—trailing only last year’s No. 2 overall pick Joey Bart—despite the fact that he’s yet to play in an official professional game yet.
“He’s an interesting player,” said a scout from a rival National League organization. “He checks some boxes—body, athleticism, wiry strength, instincts.”
Luciano’s impressive toolset is apparent to even the most untrained eye. However, there is still a bit of rawness to his game, which has left some to wonder if he would be better served to start his pro career in the Dominican Summer League instead of the more likely assignment to the Rookie-level Arizona League.
Alvaro Espinoza, who has served as Luciano’s manager this spring, isn’t among those who are concerned.
“I think he’ll be ready because he shows a lot of respect for the game and he shows patience,” Espinoza said. “For a young kid, I don’t see him taking off on defense. He’s learned to separate those two (offense and defense), and that’s huge for a 17-year-old kid. I think he’ll be fine here in the Arizona League.”
Luciano has repeatedly flashed his impressive raw power during extended spring training. That kind of pop from a 6-foot-2, 178-pound frame results from very good bat speed, which is generated by strong hands and quick wrists.
The Giants’ coaching staff isn’t making a lot of changes to Luciano’s swing or his approach at the plate, preferring to take what Espinoza calls “baby steps” in the young shortstop’s development.
“We are taking it slowly with him because he’s special,” Espinoza said. “We don’t want to confuse a player with those tools. Little baby steps with him, and he’s progressing a lot.”
That approach to his development is reflected in comments from Luciano through a translator. It’s apparent in talking with him that he’s very thoughtful, driven and serious about getting better as both a baseball player and a person. He doesn’t have to think hard to identify what he needs to do to reach his goals.
“I know I’m progressing my game,” Luciano said. “I’m learning a lot, and I just need to keep learning little by little and become a complete major league player . . . I’ve got to be a on a straight line in and out of the field and respect the game of baseball.”
The more holistic approach to Luciano’s development shows up in sessions with the individual coaches at the Giants’ complex. Hitting coach Doug Clark has worked extensively with Luciano since he first arrived in Arizona last summer.
“The number one thing we want to do in his first year here in the (United) States is to just get him acclimated to professional baseball,” Clark said. “Let him know how things work, how you go about your business as a professional, making sure you’re on time, making sure you respect the game, and do things the right way . . . His talent is tremendous. His skillset is abundant everywhere, and we’re just trying to make sure we can bottle that in and sharpen it up.”
Having Espinoza as his potential manager in the Arizona League is certainly going to help Luciano’s development as a shortstop. A 12-year major league veteran, Espinoza was known as an outstanding defender at shortstop, not so much for having flashy tools but instead succeeding with intelligence and always being in the right position to make plays. He hopes to instill those same qualities in Luciano.
“Learn how to position himself, slow the game down, recognize the speed of the runner who is at the plate, know who’s pitching, and what type of pitcher we’ve got on the mound,” Espinoza said as he ticked off the lessons that Luciano is learning. “Look at the scoreboard. The scoreboard will determine what you’re going to do with the ball. The main thing is to make the routine play. He’s been doing a great job, and that’s how he’s going to be a major league player.”
Luciano knows the importance of the knowledge and experience that Espinoza is sharing with him. When asked what improvements he needs to make in his game, he simply answered, “Learn fundamentals and game situations, and learn how to slow the game down.”
The Giants’ staff has continually pushed Luciano to keep working hard and continuing to learn, knowing that his enormous potential puts a lot of pressure on him. But they also want to keep everything in perspective during his first pro season.
“As a young guy, we’re going to keep the expectations at the right level and not expect too much,” Clark said. “But, obviously, we want this talent to come to fruition, not only here in Arizona but in San Francisco.”
Luciano is buying into what the Giants are doing to develop him. His answer as to what he’s learning from the organization to help further his career is quite simple.
“To the best of my ability be the good guy on and off the field,” Luciano said. “And be a professional outside the field.”