The Milwaukee Brewers future at third base is becoming more clear and less clear at the same time with this Lucas Erceg news.
Drafted out of college in the 2nd round in 2016, Lucas Erceg was thought to be a quick riser through the minor league system that could snag the everyday third base job when it came up for grabs. Erceg started minor league ball with a .327/.376/.518 slash line with nine home runs in 68 games after being selected in 2016.
Over the past few years, however, Erceg’s hit tool has been slowly deteriorating as he’s climbed through the minor leagues. He dropped to a still respectable .259/.310/.421 line with 15 homers and 35 doubles in High-A, plus a few games in Triple-A in 2017.
Then the next year, in Double-A, Erceg hit .248/.306/.382 with 13 homers and only 21 doubles. The Brewers pushed him to Triple-A in 2019 and he hit an abysmal .218/.305/.398 but still ended up with 15 homers. He also had a 28.5% strikeout rate in Triple-A.
Erceg put up rough numbers last season while playing in the popup Constellation Energy League for the Sugar Land Lightning Sloths, hitting just .180 with a .447 OPS in 28 games.
The Brewers had a major need at third base in 2020, and they didn’t even call Erceg in to the Alternate Training Site. That was supposed to be his chance, but his bat has been deteriorating for a few years and it’s not looking like he’ll be the third baseman of the future as many expected.
Despite opportunities at third base for the Brewers, Lucas Erceg was never called upon and is now transitioning back to a role on the mound.
Since it’s become clear there won’t be a role for Erceg, now 25, on the Brewers as a third baseman, they are transitioning him back to the mound. Erceg pitched a little in college, and his strong throwing arm that made him such a good defensive third baseman will now help him on the mound.
Erceg can get his velocity in the mid-90s, so there’s no concern there. The focus will have to be on refining his off-speed pitches, which will likely need some work considering his long layoff from pitching.
According to the team, he’s not becoming a full-time pitcher, and will instead operate as a two-way player for the time being. Perhaps they’re still holding out some hope that they can squeeze some use out of his bat and he can find something. But his first window of opportunity to seize a big league job has already come and passed. Not many players get a second window.
One other thing working in Erceg’s favor to still see some time at third base is the general lack of other options in the minor league system that can play third. The Brewers generally don’t draft corner players, instead focusing on up-the-middle talent. Zach Green and Pablo Reyes can play third in Triple-A, but Erceg is a former high draft pick, so if there’s a way to get him some time over there, the Brewers will do it.
There is still hope for this former high-rated prospect to reach the big leagues, although it’ll likely come on the mound instead of at the hot corner.