I’m just as curious about Marco Luciano as the rest of you and we are at least As Curious as to the San Francisco Giants, who know – on paper – what they have in the shortstop/ultimate third baseman at the top of their hitting prospect list. It’s the IRL part of the equation where the scene gets hazy. Maybe not for the team, but certainly for the rest of us.
Marco Luciano has a .854 OPS in 218 minor league games over three pro seasons. He is just 21 years old. He has the arm strength for shortstop or third base, so he’s got a premium player projection based on position and results. So far, so good. But then you think about his health and the number of live matches played in calendar year 2022:
This, uh, is not what you want.
While you likely missed the 2020 season, he has played in just 176 pro games over the last three calendar years. A pandemic + lower back issues = a troubling growth path. He had to play in the Dominican Winter League after recovering from a back injury that cut his minor league season short, but as Melissa Lockard noted last week for The Athletic (subscription required):
Luciano’s off-season plans were also disrupted by a back injury that limited him to just five games in the Dominican Winter League.
Lockard also likes to remind neurotic veteran fans like me that player development is not linear. Jerks are part of the deal. I think most of us assume that there will be setbacks in, say, how to hit a curveball or identify a slider; But perhaps health is also one of those failures. I’ve never met anyone in my life who had back problems at such a young age No Back problems followed as they got older, and when it comes to world-class athletes, back problems are like a telescope pointing at a cluster of performance-destroying issues Huh.
But I won’t let all those worries get me down All Dazzle by this exciting prospect. It helps that MLB.com released this brief interview with Luciano via MLB Pipeline today:
If nothing else, it is the proof of life. He can sit! He is not intimidated by the sound of “back”. I didn’t transcribe the whole thing, but here’s how it starts:
David Wayne: Marco, how’s your winter training going? You’re with the team in Scottsdale now… how’s it going?
Marco Luciano: Okay, okay. Now, thank goodness. I am recovering from my back injury and I am working on that.
DV: Yes, I was about to ask you about your back. You missed almost half the season because of your back. How did it affect you and how was your recovery?
ML: You know, it affects you a lot. For example, I love playing ball, but what I love is to enjoy it. It’s not the same when you get hurt, because you don’t enjoy the game the way you say you do. You are more worried about the pain than anything else. Now, when you are healthy, you can see how beautiful sport is, enjoy it and have fun.
DV: So, we probably didn’t see the real Marco Luciano last year because of a back injury?
ML: Last year, when I started the season, I started really well because I felt good. But then, when the pain started, it was not the same as before. I hung in there, but not like before, because I was playing in a little pain.
DV: And now, about three weeks out from spring training, what’s the latest on your back right now?
ML: I still don’t have a date set for when it will start hitting, but I think it will be soon. But I’m feeling really good and working well to get back healthy.
Click on the video embed to watch, listen, or read (the full interview is captioned) and hear Luciano’s thoughts:
- What has it been like playing in the Dominican League this winter?
- If he wants to remain a shortstop for the rest of his career.
- His favorite jersey number and why.
- His baseball idol.
- And his goals for 2023.
Key components of Farhan Zaidi’s master plan for the Giants include a successful player development pipeline. It’s a tremendous disappointment that has delayed the completion of the team’s rebuild and Luciano’s injury history certainly serves as a reminder that even the next few seasons won’t do the major league roster any favors (Kyle Harrison) probably: being the exception), but since it’s the off season it’s okay to dream a little.
From a fan’s point of view, I think a strong farm system is also needed, because people who follow the team – even just casually – can’t help but appreciate these people. Let’s form some kind of relationship with those who play for our enjoyment. Part of that joy comes from watching them “bloom” before your very eyes. Maybe it will all work out and Luciano will be The Guy in 2-3 years. If it does, get to know her a little more today will make the culmination of their raw talents all the more sweet for our entertainment.