The 2023 MLB season, as frustrating as it was for the Giants at the major league level, was one of the franchise's greatest seasons for player development.
Plenty of rookies, including top prospects, debuted last season and the youth movement was the biggest storyline from an otherwise underwhelming campaign.
One of the many rookies who reached the big leagues was top prospect Marco Luciano. The shortstop signed with the Giants for $2.6 million as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic in 2016 and had been San Francisco's No. 1 prospect for years before being overtaken by left-handed pitcher Kyle Harrison in some rankings.
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Luciano began the 2023 season in Double-A and was promoted to Triple-A in mid-July before making his major league debut with the Giants on July 26. Luciano played just 14 games across two separate stints in the majors and collected nine hits and six walks in 39 at-bats with 17 strikeouts.
The small sample size wasn't overtly impressive, but the 22-year-old did show enough in the final two weeks of the season to where Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said in his end-of-season press conference that Luciano will be given the opportunity to be the everyday shortstop next season.
"As we sit here now, we want to give Marco Luciano the chance to be the everyday guy next year," Zaidi said on Oct. 3. "If anything, his call-up was slowed down by the injury he had this year. We would have liked to see him up here a little bit more, but he's worked his way up and earned this opportunity and we're really excited about what we saw the last couple of weeks."
While Luciano is an exciting prospect and should be given a chance to earn the starting job with Brandon Crawford's likely departure, the Giants were in a similar position with a rookie infielder last offseason and it did not work out the way they had hoped.
San Francisco Giants
This time last year, Zaidi and the Giants were counting on third baseman David Villar to take over as the everyday player at the hot corner in 2023 and outwardly said they would give him every opportunity to earn the role after an impressive finish to the 2022 season.
However, Villar was the everyday third baseman to begin the season and was so bad that he was completely out of the picture after just two months. Villar hit .156 in April and .053 in 19 at-bats in May before he was optioned to Triple-A on May 30. Fortunately for the Giants, they had an insurance plan and were able to avoid what could have been a disastrous scenario at third base.
Veteran J.D. Davis showed great improvement defensively and continued where he left off at the plate down the stretch in 2022. Davis became the Giants' everyday third baseman, with rookie infielder Casey Schmitt and veteran Wilmer Flores chipping in as well. The Giants had depth at the position and it paid off.
That's not the case at shortstop heading into the 2024 season, which is why the Giants must make it a priority to add veteran depth behind Luciano in the event he's not ready for an everyday role.
Schmitt and Tyler Fitzgerald both can play shortstop, but just like Luciano, did not show enough in their rookie seasons to where the Giants can feel comfortable at the position.
The Giants enter perhaps one of the biggest offseasons in franchise history and while their focus will be on adding star power to the lineup and the starting rotation, there are a handful of players they could target as insurance behind Luciano.
What's tricky about the Giants' situation is that they want -- and should -- give Luciano every opportunity to start on Opening Day, but it's hard to do that if you make a big move at the position. If the Giants are to acquire a veteran shortstop in free agency or via trade, it needs to be someone who either can play other positions or won't break the bank financially.
The ideal player is St. Louis Cardinals super utilityman Tommy Edman. What's great about Edman is that he played four different positions last season, including shortstop. If Luciano started at shortstop on Opening Day next season and struggled then Edman can slide right in. If Luciano excelled out of the gate, then Edman still can receive consistent playing time at second base, center and right field.
Edman is 28 years old and under contract for two more seasons and likely will not come cheap in a trade with the Cardinals.
Another option would be former Silver Slugger and two-time All-Star shortstop Tim Anderson, whose name has been thrown around a lot as a potential target for the Giants since the trade deadline last summer and is a free agent this offseason.
The 30-year-old is coming off the worst season of his career, batting .245/286/.296 with one home run and 25 RBI in 493 at-bats and was pretty average defensively with the White Sox. Anderson will come cheap, but would he be willing to play part-time? The only position he's played in eight seasons is shortstop so there isn't that versatility that would allow him to move around the field and play consistently should Luciano pan out.
Another potential trade target is Milwaukee Brewers shortstop Willy Adames, who has hit 20-plus home runs in his last four full seasons outside of the shortened 2020 season. Other options on the free-agent market are Amed Rosario, super utilityman Enrique Hernández, Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Elvis Andrus to name a few.
The Giants should have no shortage of potential options for veteran depth behind Luciano and while other offseason moves might take precedence, this is one that should be a priority for 2024.