SF Giants are making the same mistake at shortstop that they made last year

2024 San Francisco Giants Spring Training
2024 San Francisco Giants Spring Training / Andy Kuno/San Francisco Giants/GettyImages

For better or worse, the SF Giants seem prepared to start the season with Marco Luciano as their everyday shortstop. Even though middle infield depth has been a need all offseason, they have done little to address that need and could be making the same mistake they made last offseason.

SF Giants are making the same mistake at shortstop that they made last year

Luciano might end up doing just fine at shortstop. However, it bears mentioning that the top infield prospect was added to the 40-man roster last winter to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. This tends to expedite a player's development and that has seemingly been the case with Luciano.

Being aggressive with development is not a bad thing either. More and more teams are doing it with some of their top prospects. However, it feels like Luciano is still relatively green with pro experience, especially in the upper minors.

Injuries and the canceled 2020 season have played a role in that. The 22-year-old infielder began the 2023 season at Double-A and was promoted to Triple-A after posting a solid .789 OPS in 242 plate appearances. Through the end of the year, he tallied 78 plate appearances and 45 plate appearances in Triple-A and the majors, respectively.

In a perfect world, Luciano would continue to develop in Triple-A. However, we do not live in a perfect world, and oftentimes, players are rushed to the majors even before they are ready. It is always an interesting debate about when is too soon, but sometimes, you have to throw them out there and see what happens.

There is no telling how Luciano will do in 2024, but what if he struggles? What if he starts the year in a slump? Does it make sense to keep giving him at-bats even if he is not performing? Farhan Zaidi joined the Murph and Markus show on KNBR on Friday and listed Tyler Fitzgerald and Casey Schmitt as alternatives to Luciano. Of course, he did not include Otto López, who was recently acquired in a trade with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Schmitt's best position is third base. He has experience up the middle, but shortstop feels like a stretch and something that does not play to his strength on defense. Fitzgerald has experience at shortstop, but can the bat play in the majors? López might be the more reliable glove among the alternatives.

If this situation sounds familiar, it is because they ran into the same problem last year. General manager Pete Putila said he felt comfortable about the shortstop depth while listing Thairo Estrada, Brett Wisely, and Isan Díaz as alternatives to Brandon Crawford.

That did not turn out well at all. Crawford spent considerable time on the injured list and struggled badly with the bat when healthy. Estrada saw time at shortstop, but second base is clearly his better position. Wisely saw just a couple of innings at shortstop, whereas Díaz was placed on waivers after 21 plate appearances. In the middle of the year, the Giants added Johan Camargo and Paul DeJong because they just ran out of depth. Neither player finished the year with the club even though the performance bar was so low at that point.

As it turns out, that depth was not comfortable at all. It is no surprise that Giants shortstops posted a 70 wRC+ and 0.6 fWAR in 2023. Both of those marks ranked 25th in baseball. You do not plan to fail, you fail to plan and that was the case with the Giants at shortstop last year. They banked on Crawford rebounding from a below-average 2022 season and did not have an alternative plan in mind.

Now, they are entering the 2024 campaign with one of their most hyped prospects in recent memory. He might just be able to tread water or even better. However, if that happens, it feels like a case of the means not justifying the ends. The Giants are taking a risk with Luciano at shortstop to start the year, and if that does not work out, they do not really have a backup plan. Again.