SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The collection of prospects gathered in Giants camp this month is the best since Farhan Zaidi took over as president of baseball operations, but the most highly touted position player in the group might not see much action this spring.
The Giants announced Wednesday that shortstop Marco Luciano suffered a lower back stress fracture while playing Winter Ball in the Dominican Republic and will be behind others at the start of camp. Zaidi said it's too soon to know how much Luciano will be able to play, if at all, this spring.
"Any time it's a back you need to be careful with it (and) the risk of reaggravation," Zaidi said. "He's kind of building up and we're hopeful that he'll get over the hump but we're obviously going to be conservative and careful with him. But he's been doing really well so far."
Any back injury would be concerning on its own, but the Giants will be particularly careful with Luciano since the winter injury was his second in a matter of months. Luciano was limited to just 57 games in High-A last season because of back discomfort that kept him off the field for just about all of June and July. The Giants hoped he could make up for those lost at-bats in Winter Ball, but he played just five games before once again being sidelined.
Zaidi said the Giants and Luciano thought the original back injury was resolved before he was cleared to play in the Dominican Republic. When the back pain popped up again, the Giants were confident he would be ready for the spring, but they're now in wait-and-see mode.
Luciano has been doing baseball work but might not be ready for the start of the Double-A season on April 7. Zaidi said the expectation is that if Luciano does start the season on the IL, the stay will be a short one.
Just 21 years old, Luciano is viewed as the best position player the Giants have developed since Buster Posey, and he sits right with Kyle Harrison on most top 100 prospect lists. In those 57 games last year, Luciano posted a .798 OPS and hit 10 homers.
Rival evaluators still view Luciano as one of the most powerful prospects in the game, although there has long been speculation that he would have to move off of shortstop. While the position is physically demanding, especially on a player with back problems, the Giants will keep Luciano at shortstop for now.
"We've had that discussion on whether there's a better chance of staying healthy playing at other spots," Zaidi said," And there's confidence that he can manage shortstop."
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The Giants are hopeful that their top prospects will start to make an impact this season, with Harrison and Casey Schmitt set to start the season in Triple-A and others like Luciano and Vaun Brown not far behind. They remain very confident in Luciano's long-term outlook and Zaidi said team doctors do not believe this will be a chronic problem.
"From everything I've heard from our doctors, they don't view it as a long-term issue," Zaidi said.