There was a decent belief that 2019 was going to be Lucas Erceg’s bounce back year. After a season that saw a dip in the third baseman’s power production and an awful month after a ball struck him in the face, there was enough optimism around Erceg to believe he could do better. The fans believed so and voted the lefty a top-ten Milwaukee Brewers prospect heading into this year. Unfortunately, Erceg had quite possibly his worst professional season to date.
Looking at Erceg’s number in the 2019 season, “career-worst” is a phrase that can come up a number or times. It was a career-worst season for his strikeout rate (25.1%), batting average (.218), on-base percentage (.305), and wRC+ (69). Add onto that the hitter-friendly PCL league and that all of AAA used the same ball as the MLB teams this year and it becomes even more disappointing. There were too many factors in Erceg’s favor for this to happen. So why was it bad?
Erceg will always be a pull hitter, it’s where most of his power comes from, but this season, he was REALLY pulling. Over 47% of his batted balls were pulled to the right side of the field. In the age of shifting, that will almost always mean bad things. Not only was he pulling the ball, but he was hitting the ball into the dirt 43% over the time, while hitting line drives just 15% of the time. That means more balls headed towards an infield with three fielders on the right side. Without line drives, there’s little chance a ball can drop over those fielder’s heads for a hit.
Still, I think we should keep an eye on Lucas Erceg to take his big step next year. He’ll just be turning 25 in May and has advanced a level every year of his career. He hasn’t had the chance to work on ways to improve his game against a league and talent-level that he’s familiar with. He came from a lower tier college that didn’t face the same level of pitchers he would have had he stayed at Cal, so there was an element of rawness still present when he was drafted. The hit tool and power that excited fans when he came out of the gates tearing apart the ball are still there, along with a very nice defensive tool kit. Erceg just needs to get back to getting the ball in air and striking out less. With that, success will come.
What are your thoughts on Erceg’s future? Do you still believe he can make it in to the bigs or is he another early-round bust?
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs