The most intriguing middle infielder of the Giants’ season likely won’t appear in a game.
Marco Luciano should be part of the Giants’ 60-player pool, the prized 18-year-old shortstop ranked by some as the organization’s top prospect and the type who could flirt with being the next young phenom in baseball.
That won’t happen this year, though. Luciano figures to be part of the 30-player taxi squad because his development is too important for the Giants to allow him to stay away from the team for a year. Scrimmages featuring Luciano facing major league pitching, with other top Giants prospects around the field, are the sort of must-see action that, unfortunately, will not be able to be seen during the pandemic.
As the future gets ready, the present will be on your televisions. Brandon Crawford will man shortstop, in desperate need of a bounce-back season after he was statistically one of the league’s worst hitters last year. The 33-year-old has worked with the new-look hitting coaches through the offseason and the past few months, and his brief camp 1.0 sampling was promising (.391/.440/.565 in nine games).
Behind Crawford will be a combination of Mauricio Dubon and Donovan Solano, two righty hitters who also will see time at second base. Dubon will play everywhere, while Solano’s bat has played against whatever pitching he’s seeing. His .409 BABIP was extraordinary last season and screams for a regression, yet he just kept hitting in the Cactus League (.381/.417/.476).
While the middle infield is not a strength of the Giants’, they are deep with major league talent. Yolmer Sanchez won a Gold Glove a year ago with the White Sox, a slick-fielding magician whom Jeff Samardzija compared to Kevin Pillar, gamers who will do anything to win. Sanchez’s pop evaporated last year, homering just twice, leading him to employ Justin Viele as an offseason batting coach. Viele was then hired to be the Giants’ batting coach, and he quickly endorse the signing of Sanchez.
While a nice story, Sanchez struggled mightily at the start of camp, still perfecting the swing changes with Viele and beginning 0-for-16 before his first base hit. In camp on a minor league deal, he will need to hit to get time over Dubon, Solano and Wilmer Flores.
Flores is the worst fielder of the group but carries the best bat. The 28-year-old righty hitter destroys lefties, against whom the Giants will find a way to put his bat in the lineup. He’s better-suited for first base and will see time against tough southpaws when Brandon Belt gets a breather, and Flores should be ready to DH, too.
Other names to know:
Kean Wong: The 40-man member, who can play all over, was sent down to minor league camp early, a victim of the depth of infielders. After briefly debuting in the majors last year, Wong could find his way to the player pool, though his best avenue toward at-bats may come at third. As a lefty, he could emerge as a complement for Longoria.
Cristhian Adames: The former Rockies infielder can play any infield position apart from first, though is probably best positioned at second. He’s a switch-hitter the Giants picked up last season and who has played well in limited action last September and in the first round of camp this year. As a non-roster invite, though, behind a sea of good-but-not-great options, his path to playing time is difficult to find.
Will Wilson: The Giants are discussing which prospects to shoehorn onto their taxi squad, and Wilson is not the automatic entry that Luciano is. The Giants thought about the former NC State shortstop with the 2019 first-round pick they used on Hunter Bishop, then they essentially bought him from the Angels in December, acquiring him by eating Zack Cozart’s contract. While the Giants don’t want the 21-year-old’s season to be wasted, it will be interesting to see if they more value his progress or the, say, 20th reliever they may use this season.