The Brewers are retaining two hard-throwing bullpen arms in the upper minors, as MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy reported that right-handers Lucas Erceg and J.C. Mejia agreed to new minor-league contracts within the past few days.
The Brewers are bringing back infielder-turned-righty reliever Lucas Erceg on a Minor League contract that includes an invitation to Major League camp. Now 27, Erceg is coming off his first season as a full-time pitcher.— Adam McCalvy (@AdamMcCalvy) October 25, 2022
The first move of the Matt Arnold era:— Adam McCalvy (@AdamMcCalvy) October 27, 2022
RHP J.C. Mejía has been signed to a Minor League contract for 2023, which includes an invitation to Major League Spring Training. Mejia spent much of 2022 serving a PED suspension.
Erceg was Milwaukee’s second-round pick in the 2016 draft as a third baseman. After an encouraging start to his professional career, Erceg’s development stalled. In addition to his struggles on the field, he also battled depression and alcohol abuse.
Erceg overcame his personal struggles and revived his chances at reaching the big leagues by converting to the mound.
The 27-year-old pitched in college and functioned as a two-way player in 2021. He made the full-time switch to pitching in 2022 and demonstrated substantial progress after a midseason promotion to Triple-A.
In 39 1⁄3 innings at the highest level of the minor leagues, he posted a 3.43 ERA and 4.19 FIP with a 24.7% strikeout rate. He finished his season strong, pitching to a 1.21 ERA and 3.64 FIP over his final 22 1⁄3 innings.
The right-hander’s power fastball headlines his arsenal. He throws both a four-seamer and a two-seamer which sit in the upper 90s and regularly hit 99 mph.
Erceg also possesses a slider and a changeup.
Control remains an issue for Erceg, who remains relatively inexperienced as a professional pitcher. His walk rate was 13.1% across two levels last season, but his stuff is good enough to impact a big-league bullpen in the future.
Erceg is eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this winter, meaning other teams can select him to their big-league roster if the Brewers do not add him to their 40-man roster.
The Brewers acquired Mejia from the Cleveland Guardians last November in exchange for a player to be named later, who turned out to be minor-league catcher and corner infielder David Fry.
Mejia only appeared in two games for the Brewers before serving an 80-game suspension following a positive PED test. The club outrighted him after he completed the ban.
His results were not impressive in that brief big-league sample, but Mejia flashed improved stuff as a full-time reliever after functioning as a swingman in Cleveland.
Mejia’s average sinker velocity increased from 92.6 mph to 95.6 mph. According to Statcast, the pitch averaged an extra 4.5 inches of sink and 1.5 inches of run compared to other sinkers thrown at a similar velocity and extension.
He gained a couple of ticks of velocity on his slider as well.
The big right-hander experienced better results in Nashville, where he worked to a 2.76 ERA with a 28.2% strikeout rate and 49.3% ground ball rate.
Both players received invites to big-league spring training.