For nine innings every night, Kai Correa is standing a few inches to Gabe Kapler's left, helping the Giants manager maneuver his way through opposing lineups, pitching changes and defensive shifts. But in the afternoon, the Giants bench coach also is their infield instructor, working closely with Brandon Crawford, Donovan Solano, Wilmer Flores and others.
Correa is as knowledgeable about Giants infielders as anyone in the organization, and if all goes according to plan he'll be handed a tough but tantalizing task. When Marco Luciano reaches the big leagues, it will be Correa who works with him every day, drilling the intricacies of shortstop into him just as he has done for one spring training and one summer camp at Oracle Park.
Correa has seen plenty of Luciano at this point and tracks his progress in San Jose. He is a believer in Luciano's ability to stay at shortstop, and over the last year, he has seen an adjustment that reminds him of what Crawford is able to do.
"When people say what impresses you about Brandon Crawford, it's so easy to point to the highlight reel tapes. Everyone sees those every night. We already know the gracefulness, the strength, the ability to complete plays -- the same goes for Luci," Correa said on this week's "Giants Talk" podcast. "We've seen the highlight reel tapes of the physicality, the ability to throw across-body (from) the hole, the ability to spin up the middle and let loose from a low slot, the soft hands.
"What I think has impressed me the most in the last 500 days getting to know him, is how much he has dug into his routines, how much he has learned to be a professional infielder, from watching Craw, from watching (Solano, Flores and Mauricio Dubon). He has understood how he needs to work on a day-in, day-out basis and build really quality routines to make the routine plays."
Luciano's calling card is his power at the plate. The 19-year-old has a league-leading 16 homers in 61 games for Low-A San Jose this season. But what will make him such an impact prospect, potentially the top one in baseball at some point soon, is his ability to provide that power as a shortstop.
Correa pointed out that plenty of organizations have talented young infielders, but the key is finding guys who are so consistent with their defense that you can trust them to stay on the dirt.
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"The guys who are going to rise to the top are the guys who are going to raise their floor, not only live up to their ceiling, and we've seen Luciano take some really large strides to live up to his floor and make the routine play," Correa said.
The Giants are thrilled with Luciano's progress this season, but they are being careful with their top prospect. President of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi has said there's a chance Luciano finishes the year in High-A, but the Giants aren't going to shoot him through the system. He is a potential franchise player and they want to make sure he's ready when he arrives.
Whenever that is, Correa will be there, teaching him, but also letting others carry the load when needed. He pointed out that there are a lot of times when Luciano is following Crawford or Dubon during drills and it's important to let him learn from the veterans.
"When you have a player of that caliber it's just allowing that development to happen and being patient, remembering how young and how inexperienced someone is, and not taking the joy of that natural development away from them," Correa said.
Another top Giants prospect should arrive first, and Correa also has worked quite a bit with Will Wilson, who hit his way out of High-A already and has 11 homers across two levels. Correa credited Wilson for the work he did with infield coordinator Jason Wood on building up his body so that he can handle shortstop, and said Wilson's consistency has stood out.
"There's a ton of value in being the same person every day, the consistent bat-to-ball skills, the ability to throw accurately to first base from multiple positions, to handle the routine play and occasionally make the extreme play," Correa said. "Will does all of those things."