Luciano, no longer “blocked” in the SS de Gigantes, works to return to health

What Giants’ No. 1 prospect and number 16 in all of baseball, according to MLB Pipeline, Marco Luciano knows that what he demonstrated last year in the Giants’ minor league system was not what it could have been, as a back injury cost him about half the of his 2022 campaign.

Now, facing training sessions for 2023, the Dominican shortstop is already at the San Francisco team’s facilities in Scottsdale, Arizona, recovering from said injury and preparing to resume hitting and other baseball activities.

“I’m working on that,” said 21-year-old Luciano. “I feel good. I’m working well to come back healthy.”

Limited to 65 games last year, Luciano was able to maintain his numbers while on the field, hitting .269/.350/.467 (.817 OPS), mostly at Class-A Strong. And he retained the power shown in 2021, hitting 11 home runs in 257 plate appearances last season. However, Luciano aspires to much more in 2023, which starts with health.

“When you have an injury, it’s not the same, because you don’t enjoy the game the same way,” Luciano reflected in a conversation with last week. “It affects you a lot, because for example, I really like the ball, but what I like is to enjoy it. You are more aware of the pain than of anything else. Now, when you are healthy, then you can see how beautiful the game is and enjoy it and have fun.

“Last year, when I started the season, I started very well, because I felt good. But later, when the pain started, it was not the same. I kept up, but it wasn’t the same anymore, because I was already playing with a bit of pain”.

With an .854 OPS in a total of 926 minor league plate appearances since 2019 — which includes participation in elite events like the Arizona Fall League and the All-Star Futures Game in 2021 — Luciano has earned a good reputation as a hitter among MLB promises. But his defense at shortstop has been called into question, with an overall rating of 45 on the 20-80 scale from scouts.

Amid speculation about a position change for Luciano in the future, such as third base or right field, the native of San Francisco de Macorís seems quite calm and willing to be flexible.

“If the team makes that decision to change my position, I would have no problem,” said Luciano about it. “But for now, the goal is to work to stay at shortstop. That is my goal, what I have in mind: Work to stay there. Now, if the team already tells me that they want me to change, that they think I can help them in another position, I would have no problem doing so.

A month ago, a position trade — or a trade of Luciano from the Giants to acquire talent in other areas — seemed more realistic, with the reported deal between San Francisco and shortstop superstar Puerto Rico. Carlos Correa. But with the cancellation of that deal, the shortstop in the Giants looks less locked up for the moment, with veteran Brandon Crawford apparently returning to that position.

“My thing is to play ball. I play wherever,” said Luciano, who had his first taste of the Dominican League in 2022-23 with five games wearing the Estrellas Orientales uniform. “(Taking out) turns, being there, feeling the excitement of the game and the vibe.”

If he fully recovers, Luciano should start next season at Double-A, with the goal of moving up to Triple-A at some point. The Dominican refuses to set specific goals for numbers or minor league levels to reach this year, instead he wants to see progress on a consistent basis.

“My goal is always to learn,” said Luciano, who has an affinity for wearing the number 10 on his uniform, having been born on September 10. “Keep learning about baseball things. You are always learning different things along the way. You never stop learning.

“Even when you are in the Major Leagues, you are still always learning something new. So, my goal is not to end as I started. Always learn something new, no matter the level or anything like that”.

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