The A’s announced this evening they’ve acquired minor league reliever Lucas Erceg from the Brewers for cash. The 28-year-old was not on Milwaukee’s 40-man roster and will not immediately go on the Oakland 40-man.
A San Jose native, Erceg entered the professional ranks as Milwaukee’s second round pick in 2016. He was a third baseman at the time and generated a fair amount of attention from prospect evaluators early in his career. After multiple seasons of offensive struggles in the upper minors, he gradually fell off the prospect radar. He was sitting on a .223/.270/.379 batting line as a 26-year-old in Double-A two seasons ago when he and the organization agreed to transition to pitching.
Erceg has spent the past two and a half seasons pitching in the upper minors. As one might expect, his results have been mixed. Erceg has missed bats around a league average rate but struggled to throw strikes consistently. That’s understandable for someone who’s new to pitching full-time but has translated into a 5.07 ERA over 124 1/3 minor league frames.
The right-hander has allowed 15 runs (11 earned) over 15 1/3 frames with Triple-A Nashville this season. He’s fanned 16, walked ten and induced grounders at an excellent 53.8% rate. While Erceg clearly still isn’t a finished product, Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs named him the #32 prospect in the Milwaukee farm system last offseason. According to Longenhagen, Erceg’s fastball sits in the 96-99 MPH range. The A’s will take a flier on his power arm and lofty ground-ball totals in spite of the overall performance inconsistency.
As with much of the roster, Oakland’s bullpen has been among the league’s worst. The A’s entered play Wednesday with the highest bullpen ERA (6.64) and lowest strikeout rate (18%). Erceg won’t step immediately into that mix but should have a clearer path to an MLB job than he would’ve in Milwaukee if he can find success in Triple-A.