Lucas Erceg has a simple goal for the 2019 season: stay healthy.
The lefthanded-hitting third baseman, a 2016 second-round pick out of Menlo (Calif.) College, had trouble remaining pain free last season, which contributed to a challenging season at Double-A Biloxi. It began before the first pitch of the season when Erceg, 23, received an injection in his lower back to address a bulging disc.
With his back feeling better, Erceg got off to a solid start at the plate, only to get beaned by a pitch on April 23, a scary incident in which he was saved serious injury by his helmet and protective C-Flap. He missed a couple of games but struggled at the plate for a long period upon returning to action.
“I never really thought about it, moving forward,” Erceg said. “It could have been a lot worse than it was. That type of stuff happens. I just went out and played as hard as I could.”
Despite later bruising a knee banging into a ballpark railing while chasing a foul pop-up, Erceg managed to put together a decent finishing kick. Still, his overall numbers were not what was expected from one of the organization’s top prospects. He hit .248/.306/.382 with 13 home runs in 123 games.
“It was kind of a tough year, but I’m glad I’m going through it now and learning from it,” said Erceg, who committed 23 errors despite being an above-average third baseman.
Erceg opened eyes in the Brewers’ spring camp in 2017 when he belted two home runs in one game against the Reds, including a titanic drive that landed on the roof of the clubhouse beyond right field. That spring, he was merely called over from minor league camp to see action.
This spring, Erceg is an official non-roster invitee to big league camp for the first time, meaning he’ll get the full experience.
“My back’s feeling pretty good now,” he said. “I’m doing a lot of exercises and stuff or it. I’m looking forward to being healthy and having a big year. I’m very excited and blessed to get this opportunity to be in camp.”
*1B Jake Gatewood, who suffered a torn ACL during the 2018 season, had begun swinging a bat again but will be restricted to limited action in the early going of minor-league camp.
*Beyond Erceg, the Brewers invited several other prospects to camp – 2B Keston Hiura, OF Corey Ray(^), RHP Zack Brown, C Payton Henry, INF Nate Orf and RHPs Bubba Derby, Jon Olczak and Miguel Sanchez(^).