Erceg Working On Adding Polish On Both Sides Of The Ball
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — In his first full season as a professional, Lucas Erceg experienced something he'd never come across as an amateur. For whatever reason, he and his teammates at high Class A Carolina were bombarded with lefthander after lefthander for most of the first half of the season.
It got to the point that Erceg, the Brewers' second-round pick of out Menlo College in 2016, started referring to the Carolina League by another name: the Caro-lefty League.
"I think there was a point in my first 30 to 45 games where I had more at-bats against lefties than righties," he said. "That was kind of shocking. At the beginning of the season, I was kind of up and down in terms of my success, and having to deal with all those lefties made me realize that 'Hey, these guys are trying to win and compete for their team,' and that was the same thing I was doing.
"I kind of felt like I was allowing them to succeed instead of making myself work hard for my at-bats and trying to get the results I wanted."
Gradually, though, the tide began to turn and things began to even out. Once that happened, Erceg's numbers began trending up. In the second half of the season, a span of 64 games, the 22-year-old hit .273/.330/.466 with nine home runs and 46 RBIs. His 83 RBIs was the system's top total.
As a reward for his stellar season, Erceg was promoted to Triple-A Colorado Springs at season's end as the SkySox made a push for the Pacific Coast League crown.
"It was a good first full season," he said, "but there's definitely plenty to work on."
Already one of the best defenders at third base in the Carolina League—league managers voted him the best at the position in this year's Best Tools survey—with a well above-average throwing arm, Erceg is continuing to work on the finer points defensively as part of his assignment in the Arizona Fall League.
"I'm getting better on my footwork on backhands, taking better angles in the 5-6 hole," he detailed. "And just continuing to move my feet throughout the play and finishing through the baseball when I throw it."
Offensively, too, Erceg is working on some smaller things throughout the course of the six-week Fall League season. Specifically, he's continuing to adjust his approach at the plate in an effort to prepare himself for the more advanced pitching he'll see at the upper levels starting next season.
"I'm trying to stick with a good, consistent approach up that the plate. I know tonight I was kind of in and out with that approach he said," referring to Friday's 1-for-4 effort with a double against Scottsdale. "I know we still have plenty of games left and I'm still going to have plenty of at-bats and opportunities to get better at it, and I'm ready to do exactly that."
Specifically, Erceg was a little miffed at the way he went through his last at-bat of the game, facing Reds righthander Jake Ehret. Erceg worked the count to 3-1 before rolling over to first base.
"My approach didn't necessarily go from wanting to hit an oppo line-drive in the left-center gap, but it kind of went to not wanting to be late on the fastball," he said. "You're kind of expecting (the fastball), especially as a leadoff hitter because the pitcher is not wanting to give up that leadoff walk. The pitch I swung at was over the plate for the most part, but I pulled off the baseball and grounded to first."
Obviously, Erceg wasn't happy with how the at-bat ended, but he knows that's why he's in the AFL. If he continues to learn from scenarios like his last at-bat on Friday, the season will have been a success.
Morgan Continuing To Catch On
In the afternoon game between Surprise and Glendale, Rangers prospect Josh Morgan continued his conversion from shortstop to catcher. Texas' third-round choice in 2014 out of Orange (Calif.) Lutheran HS alternated between both positions this year in an effort to ease him back into action behind the plate.
Morgan wasn't going into the transition completely green—he'd caught as a freshman in high school—but there was definitely a bit of refreshing to do during the season.
"I feel comfortable (now)," Morgan said. "I feel more comfortable the more reps I get, and the more I catch in the bullpen with these guys the more comfortable I'm going to get. I felt like I did OK today, but there's always room for improvement everywhere."
Morgan said part of the reason the Rangers looked at him behind the plate had to do with his leadership abilities–which also come into play at shortstop—and his above-average arm strength that allowed him to catch speedy White Sox outfielder Tito Polo stealing on Friday.
Polo successfully stole a pair of bags as well, and controlling the running game is just one of the areas Morgan will continue to refine as he heads to next season.
"I have faith in my arm, but there's always room for improvement," he said. "I'm just going to try to be better and better every day and see where it takes me."
Lucas Erceg Seeks To Rebound In 2019
Injuries torpedoed Lucas Erceg's 2018 season. Now he seeks good health as he tries to impress the Brewers with his power and glove work at third base.
- Polo has continued his impressive start to the Fall League. Acquired as part of the four-player package the Yankees sent to the White Sox for third baseman Todd Frazier and relievers David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle, the 23-year-old has shown an intriguing combination of hard contact, speed and defense over the first week of games. He stole the two bases on Friday, carded his second straight game with two hits and made some difficult plays look easy in center field.
- Oddly enough, Polo is one of two players in this year's Fall League who has been traded in a deal for Kahnle. Rockies righthander Yency Almonte (Salt River) was one flipped from the White Sox to land Kahnle in November 2015.
- Royals outfielder Elier Hernandez (Surprise) hit a long home run against Glendale, and is now hitting .455 (5-for-11) with two doubles and the home run in early AFL action.