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Scout's Eye View of Marco Luciano
Lukas McKnight and Tom Shafer take over the site for a day
Photo Credit: Bill Mitchell | Baseball America
Today at There R Giants, we have a real treat. I’m going to hand over the reigns for the first of a series of guest posts from Lukas McKnight and Tom Shafer. Together, Lukas and Tom run the site PeloteroIntl.com (“pelotero” is the Spanish word for “ballplayer”). Together, Lukas and Tom have over 40 years of major league experience — most of that coming from the scouting perspective. Tom Shafer spent over 20 years scouting for the Cubs, Reds, Astros and Mariners, focusing on the international market. Lukas McKnight spent his entire 20+ year career with the Cubs, starting as a minor league player before moving into scouting and front office work. He’s currently the Director of Baseball for Visual Edge, an industry leader in visual evaluation and training for high-level athletes.
Together, Lukas and Tom have graciously offered to provide a series of three posts for There R Giants, giving their scouting profiles of three young international prospects from the system whom they have personally scouted. Today, they’re going to provide their scouting report for the Giants #1 prospect Marco Luciano, and, in the weeks to come, we’ll be hearing about two of the most recent J2 signees. I couldn’t be more excited to hand over the keys for this level of insight!
Take it away, guys…
Some publications laugh at how often young international players are compared to Alfonso Soriano, so when a player comes along that DOES bear a striking resemblance to the former Dominican great, it always makes an author dig a little further for a player comparison.
However, sometimes a player does project a lot like Soriano, he of 2,000 hits, .500 career SLG, and 7-time All-Star fame. Marco Luciano is one such prospect.
Luciano, who will play as a 19-year-old until September, probably needs little introduction here amongst you Giants faithful. However, as he was a favorite of one of ours as an amateur player, he was someone we thought we might add some insight on before we moved onto some deeper cuts in the Giants system.
Heading into the 2018-19 international signing period, the four top 16-year-olds began to separate themselves from the rest of the class. Shortstop Orelvis Martinez agreed to a deal worth $3.51MM with the Toronto Blue Jays. The Seattle Mariners then locked up shortstop Noelvi Marte and soon after, the Los Angeles Dodgers added Venezuelan catcher Diego Cartaya. The Giants then signed Luciano for $2.6MM, making him the cream of the Giants’ 2018 signing crop under the direction of their International Scouting Director, Joe Salermo.
It didn’t take Luciano long to justify that hefty investment, either, dominating the 2019 AZL as a 17-year-old (when stateside high school prospects would be playing in the Area Code Games or the Baseball Factory All America Game), putting up a monster .302/.417/.564 slash line in 216 PA and a palatable 25% strikeout rate (especially given his age). The Giants saw enough to push him to the more advanced (now-defunct) Northwest League, where he hit a more modest .212/.316/.333 in 38 PA, albeit with an impressive 15.8% strikeout rate (proving he wasn’t overmatched). A hamstring strain ended his season, but it was hard to be anything less than giddy after such a season from any 17-year-old.
Adding to the excitement surrounding his performance are Luciano’s physical gifts and tools. I’d mentioned an Alfonso Soriano physical comparison earlier, though that may end up shortchanging Luciano in the end. While he’s a broad-shouldered/tapered waist 6’1”, 198 pounds now (as compared to Soriano’s listed playing size of 6’1”, 195 lbs), no one will be shocked to see Luciano zoom past that in weight (and even height) and grow into something closer to Carlos Correa. His build is promising for his ability to stay athletic in the long-term, too, should he remain diligent in his work habits.
Already mentioned was Luciano’s precociousness with the bat, and based on his swing and mechanics, it’s not hard to see why he’s already had the results he’s had. For such a young player that’s still growing into his body, he’s awfully quiet and relaxed in his setup and load, and he lands softly to put himself in a position to make good swing decisions. He’s engaged in his lower half already, and expect him to get even more out of his legs as he gets stronger and better understands how to generate power from his lower half. His swing is relatively short to the ball for a longer-armed hitter, and it’s already lightning-quick through the zone. More impressive is how under control he’s able to remain while doing so, and even on his most aggressive swings, he’s on balance with his finish. Further, he stays through the hitting zone for a long time with his barrel, and it’s not a shock to see/hear that he’s adept at using right-centerfield to hit already. And most exciting, Luciano’s already able to pull the ball in the air with backspin consistently. That’s a very positive trait for hitters that get to lofty HR totals in their peak seasons, which Luciano projects to do with his future top of the scales power to go along with a plus hit grade.
There’s promise for Luciano defensively as well, though he might not have the unique polish he already shows as a hitter. His hands are soft, he reads the ball well, and he’s accurate in making exchanges. His arm shows plus, too, and he’s comfortable throwing from a variety of angles. His hands and arm are encouraging enough to project a player that can stay on the dirt. However, his feet and lateral agility are closer to average, along with speed that’s average both in the 60 (we’ve timed him at 6.90-6.95 in the 60-yard dashes viewed) and underway. While there are players with this profile that have been able to stick at SS due to instincts, positioning, and consistency (see Paul DeJong), those traits are more apt to push him to 3b where his range will be less in demand. Depending on the need of the Giants when he breaks in, RF would also be a nice option to feature his average speed and plus arm (much the way the Marlins pushed Miguel Cabrera to RF to get his elite bat in the lineup in the playoff run with Mike Lowell entrenched at 3b). While it might take a hit to Luciano’s fantasy value, his bat projects to be impactful anywhere on the diamond.
Luciano projects as an impact, middle-of-the-order bat for the Giants for many years to come along with some defensive versatility due to his athleticism. While they have the luxury of letting him try to stick at SS for the next 18 months, the more likely projection is for Luciano to end up playing a solid 3b with slash lines in the neighborhood of .270/.340/.525. The lost year shouldn’t do much to slow Luciano down, and there’s no reason he’s not ready to start the season in High A given the polish to his offensive approach. A bump to AA midway through shouldn’t be out of the question, either.
Giants fans...there’s not much to NOT be excited about here. Enjoy!