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Top prospect Marco Luciano still recovering from back injury as spring training begins



© Clifford Oto/The Sto | 2021 May 12

Spring training is officially underway, but the Giants aren’t completely whole in Scottsdale.

The team’s official release providing medical updates revealed that prospect Marco Luciano, as well as new outfielder Michael Conforto, aren’t 100% yet.

Luciano, regarded either as San Francisco’s top or second-best prospect behind left-handed pitcher Kyle Harrison, suffered a low back stress fracture while playing winter ball in the Dominican. That injury came after he missed two months of the 2022 regular season with a low back strain.

The back injury limited the 21-year-old to five winter ball games and has prevented him from fully resuming baseball activities. He’s slowly ramping up with his throwing and hitting progression, per the Giants.

At High-A Eugene last year, Luciano hit .263 with a .798 OPS. He was added to San Francisco’s 40-man roster ahead of this offseason’s Rule 5 Draft.

Luciano isn’t expected to contribute at the big-league level this year, barring a massive year in the minors that earns him multiple promotions. Conforto is, though.

The Giants signed Conforto to a two-year, $36 million deal with an opt-out after 2023. The outfielder didn’t play last year as he recovered from shoulder surgery and is still rehabbing.

Conforto will begin Cactus League play as the designated hitter, the Giants said, as he progresses with throwing; he’s currently out to 165 feet.

The team has expected him to be a full-go by Opening Day.

“The progression has me ready to play the field in spring,” Conforto said in his introductory press conference. “Hopefully I’m 100 percent by opening day. We’ll see. You gotta take it day by day. But that’s what the progression has me lined up for.”

Health will be key for both Conforto and Mitch Haniger this year. Both outfielders have had injury histories, and will be relied upon to play consistently in the corners. If either or both get sidelined, the Giants may have to play Joc Pederson in the field again — an option they clearly want to avoid.

Last year, Pederson was the fourth worst defensive outfielder in baseball, per outs above average. The Giants added Conforto and Haniger in part to limit Pederson exposure in the outfield, instead playing him in more of a full-time DH role.

Other notable injuries listed by the team include relievers Cole Waites and Luke Jackson. Waites suffered a right lat strain recently and will be examined by the Giants’ team doctor. Jackson, meanwhile, is still recovering from Tommy John surgery but has begun pitching off a mound.

Jackson will likely start the year on the 60-day injured list given typical Tommy John timelines.