Marco Luciano

Where Luciano stands in Giants' shortstop plans after Ahmed DFA'd

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SAN FRANCISCO -- When the Giants signed former Gold Glove Award winner Nick Ahmed in the spring, many wondered why they didn't just push for a reunion with Brandon Crawford, their own multi-time Gold Glove shortstop. 

What the Giants couldn't say publicly was that Ahmed would be much easier to part ways with during the season if it was time to turn to a young shortstop, and that's exactly what happened on Tuesday.

The Giants DFA'd Ahmed, but the rest of that initial plan hasn't quite gone as expected. 

Marco Luciano was supposed to be the rookie who would push the veteran aside at some point, but instead the Giants are turning to Brett Wisely and Tyler Fitzgerald. On the same day they parted ways with Ahmed, Luciano started at second base in Triple-A. 

The 22-year-old top prospect has made nine starts at second base since being optioned back to Triple-A. He is splitting his time between the two middle infield spots, but president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said the Giants still view Luciano as a shortstop. 

"Nobody is jumping to conclusions based on a short stretch and a handful of tough plays that didn't go his way," Zaidi said Tuesday. "Some of this is just our philosophy of wanting to find different spots to get guys to the big leagues when we have opportunities. Diversifying things a little bit for him has made some sense (but) we're not giving up on the shortstop role for him.

"From what we track, his defensive metrics at shortstop have been pretty solid in the minor leagues over the last couple of years. Over a big sample, he has done a nice job. Look, it's always going to be different when you come up here with the pressure and expectations and being able to do it on a night in, night out basis on a big stage. That'll be a hurdle for him, but we're going to continue to get him reps there."

It is true that the Giants have had just about all of their minor leaguers learn multiple positions, although Luciano was always an exception. He had just 46 innings at a second position coming into this season, but he struggled defensively during his latest stint in the big leagues, primarily late in games on an otherwise thrilling road trip through Pittsburgh and New York. It certainly stands out that the Giants have adjusted his defensive outlook since that week.

Luciano was 9-for-24 during that run in the big leagues, but his OPS in a hitter-friendly Triple-A league is under .700 and he has just three homers. A hot streak could very easily put him back into the big league mix, but for now the Giants will lean on Wisely and Fitzgerald. Manager Bob Melvin said the two would platoon at short. 

"Obviously you don't see as many lefties, so Wisely is going to get predominantly the most at-bats, but (there's) in-game (changes) too," Melvin said. "Wisely has swung the bat pretty well against lefties but I think both of them are going to get an opportunity to play."

The two were right in the middle of Tuesday's 4-3 walk-off win over the Toronto Blue Jays at Oracle Park. Fitzgerald hit a homer in the eighth to get the Giants within a run and Wisely tied it in the ninth. A clutch walk by Fitzgerald kept that rally going, and he raced home for the winning run on a wild pitch. 

Fitzgerald said it was a bittersweet day, noting that Ahmed was a mentor. On multiple occasions, he said Ahmed called him in after games to chat about the game and what he was seeing. But Fitzgerald also understands this is by far his best shot to stick as a big leaguer. 

"It's exciting," Fitzgerald said. "As much as we love Nick and as much as he did for us -- and for me personally, he was kind of like a mentor for me and took me under his wing -- as much as it sucks for him to leave, it is definitely an opportunity for me."

Fitzgerald is 26 and Wisely is 25, so while both are a bit on the older side as prospects, they still can very easily be a big part of the future in San Francisco. The Giants hope Luciano is, too, and he doesn't need to look hard to find motivation despite not getting the call when Ahmed was let go.

The Giants are building their young lineup around Heliot Ramos, who struggled when he was the 22-year-old in the big leagues. Two years later, he's heading to the All-Star Game.

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