Giants believe Marco Luciano is ready for the big 2023 and ready to make an impact in MLB

Giants hope the healthy Luciano is ready for an impactful 2023 originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Watching the Giants in spring training gives you the inescapable feeling that a great class of homegrown talent is finally breaking through.

Kyle Harrison was the most watched player at camp from day one and Casey Schmitt has been a standout player since the games began. Vaun Brown got his first taste of big league life, and the Giants held onto Luis Matos longer than most, partly because of how close his approach to the plate was. Older prospects like Sean Hjelle and Tristan Beck Be ready for a real opportunity in the majorsand Grant McCray, Keaton Winn and others got their feet wet.

But the player who could possibly be the best of them all has been doing his job mostly on the backcourts.

Marco Luciano was diagnosed with a Stress fracture in the lower back After being pulled by Winter Ball and the Giants being very secure in the rehab process, Luciano can now see the light at the end of the tunnel. Rehab went as planned and Luciano took part in full squad training before being voted back to minor league camp. On Monday, he faced 2022 runner-up Carson Whisenhunt in a live BP session at Papago Park, taking another step towards his return to the Games.

The Giants are now optimistic that Luciano will be ready for the Double-A season, and as his time in big-league camp came to an end, manager Gabe Kapler reminded everyone that prospects of his caliber can change quickly.

“We feel like he has a chance to make a difference at the major league level as early as this season and a lot of that will depend on his ability to maintain that momentum,” Kapler said. “We feel really good about where he is physically and I’ve shared that with him. Mentally, emotionally, same, and we’ve talked about it. He’s just in a really positive mood and happy to be on a baseball field.”

If you didn’t know Luciano was being held back, you wouldn’t have been able to tell. Smiling throughout camp, he attacked the lengthy rehab process that began with taking Grounders day in and day out without being allowed to throw. Having two old problems in one year is scary for anyone interested, but Luciano quickly put that behind him. The Giants are excited to see what he can do now that he’s back to full health.

“You’re wondering when was the last time he was really 100 percent?” said farm manager Kyle Haines. “Some of those nagging injuries guys just try to play through. They know you don’t get into the big leagues when you’re in rehab. Sometimes young players struggle with when to report injuries and how to really feel like talking about them, but it looks like he’s probably healthy for the first time in a while.”

Luciano may still be behind others at the end of March, but not by much. If he can join Double-A Richmond earlier this year, he’ll be looking to build a solid performance in High-A. Luciano had .798 OPS with 10 home runs in 57 games while continuing to play shortstop.

The Giants continue to see growth in his approach to the plate and are impressed with how his physique has matured over the past year. Now it’s all about staying healthy so he can finally reach his potential.

When Luciano was chosen, Kapler assured him that he would have all the resources he needed at the minor league facility. They discussed how much information was being thrown at the young shortstop, and Luciano assured Kapler that he was happy with whatever the staff asked. He was then on his way, ready to attack Double-A and try to push for a late 2023 debut.

Haines noted that not only is Luciano two promotions from the big leagues, he’s now on the 40-man list. Now it’s up to Luciano to force the issue.

“When Marco is on the field he’s really good,” said Haines. “One of the hurdles to his development has always been those lost reps – whether it’s because of (the pandemic) or the nagging injuries – so we have to get him replays but when he’s on the field he’s really good and he’s getting better every time when he’s out there. Every month he’s on the field it seems like he’s getting better. Even if he levels up and takes his nuggets right away, he’ll make adjustments and grow.

“There’s a reason there’s every tier of minor leagues. Marco is really talented but he needs growth at every level and we are even seeing growth during the rehab process this year.”

— Matos and Patrick Bailey were the last to be sent to minor league camp. Both had good feathers.

Matos has built mass and shown a solid approach in games and during BP. There’s no doubt Bailey has the potential to be the best defensive catcher in the organization, but he needs to close the gap in his balancing act. The switch hitter had .851 OPS from the left side but .460 from the right side. Much of his work that spring involved his right-handed swing.

“We’ve made some good adjustments and we’re still making those adjustments on the right side,” he said. “We’re just kind of building on last year’s finish and we’re continuing to swing from the left and hopefully lift those numbers from the right.”

Bailey was born right-handed, but last year he had a strange problem. There just aren’t that many left-handed starters in the minors, so Bailey only got 60 at-bats from the right. He said his focus this year will be to do more cage work from that side as it’s harder to replicate in games.

Bailey, a 2020 first-round draft pick, has slipped down the prospect lists, but the Giants are still hot in large part because of his glove. The 23-year-old was a minor league Gold Glove Award winner last season, although he didn’t immediately realize he’d been honored.

“I didn’t even know I won,” he said, laughing. “(Craig Albernaz) texted me to congratulate him and I was like, ‘What are you talking about?’ “

Bailey had a very good reason not to be in the loop. His wife Leigha gave birth to their first child, a daughter, in September.

RELATED: How Kyle Harrison hands out comparisons to Bumgarner

— The Giants are nearing the reunion of their infield. David Villar (hip flexor strain) will return to the lineup Saturday, and the team announced that Brandon Crawford (left knee infection) “is feeling good” and will return to baseball work this weekend.

— Cole Waites (right lat) will host a second live BP session this weekend and then return to games. Luke Jackson (Tommy John Rehab) ticks off bullpen sessions expecting to throw a live BP before camp breaks. Stephen Piscotty (right oblique) is re-evaluated this weekend. Calf and Achilles strains sideline Austin Slater. Finally, Thomas Szapucki (left arm neuropathy) will see a specialist next week.

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