LUCAS Stijepan ERCEG
Nickname:   N/A Position:   RHP
Home: N/A Team:   ATHLETICS
Height: 6' 2" Bats:   L
Weight: 214 Throws:   R
DOB: 5/1/1995 Agent: N/A
Uniform #: 70  
Birth City: San Jose, CA
Draft: Brewers #2 - 2016 - Out of Menlo College (CA)
YR LEA TEAM SAL(K) G IP H SO BB GS CG SHO SV W L OBA ERA
2021 -22 BLOX-NASHV   71 109 102 114 72 17 0 0 2 5 10 0.245 4.98
2023 AL ATHLETICS   50 55 51 68 36 0 0 0 0 4 4 0.245 4.75
Personal
  • In 2013, Erceg graduated from Westmont High School, hitting .437 and going 9-3 with a 0.59 ERA and 106 Ks in 84 innings.

  • Lucas' parents are Slavko and Lee Ann Erceg. His father was very stern. And Lucas's mother was an alcoholic. With baseball came a way to escape, and a ballfield the only place he felt successful.

    Erceg has loved baseball as long as he can remember. He played some other sports as a kid, but nothing organized.

    “I think my mom mentioned to me, when I was 2 or 3 years old, I was really swinging hard at a piñata,” Erceg said. “She remembered how hard I swung.”

    Erceg’s parents saw a flier about youth baseball near their Campbell, Calif., home, and as young as four years old, Erceg had found his passion. But for Lucas, baseball was more than fun; it represented a way out—a way out of a troubled family situation.

    “I didn’t have a good relationship with my parents,” he said. “My mom was an alcoholic, my dad was very tough. So baseball was an outlet for success. I loved the feeling when I stepped on the ballfield.”

    He played whenever he could and for whomever he could, because he loved it. But also because he knew he might be able to use his skills to get away—through high school and into college and maybe, just maybe, pro ball. (Vince Lara-Cinisomo - Baseball America - 10/07/2016)

  • Lucas needed people to notice his ability to play baseball at a high level. Thankfully, Mike Neu did.

    Neu, a former big league pitcher and the closer on Miami’s 1999 national championship team, was coaching at Diablo Valley Jr. College in California when he first saw Erceg.

    “I actually saw him before high school,” said Neu, now the head coach at Pacific. Neu also coached some travel ball teams. "He played for me when he was 12-13 years old and he was always the best player on the field,” Neu said. “He was always the best pitcher and best hitter on the field, and you could tell he loved the game.”

    Neu said Lucas would play as many games as he could, sometimes playing in two different tournaments in a weekend if possible. He was not eager to go home.

    “I knew his family situation,” Neu said. “He was not always in a great situation, (and) financially, he needed some help as far as getting to games. I knew how special a player he was.”

    As special a player as Erceg was—and he was a two-way star at Westmont High in Campbell, Calif.—he was not drafted out of high school. Because the field was a refuge, Lucas needed a way to stay in the game, but with a 2.6 grade-point average and admittedly not the most studious person, Erceg wasn’t sure college was an option.

    Luckily, Neu—by now the pitching coach and recruiting coordinator at Cal—had stayed in touch. He talked to Erceg about joining him at Berkeley, but Erceg wasn’t sure.

    “He asked me, ‘What do you think about coming here?”’ Erceg said of Neu. “A lot of schools talk to you, but they’re really not that serious. But just a couple of months later, halfway through the semester, he said, ‘We want to offer you a scholarship. I had a 2.6 grade-point average, my grades weren’t very good. Neu had to pull a lot of strings.”

    Neu acknowledged it wasn’t easy, saying, “We helped him a lot. He was right on the borderline academically. He had to take his SATs a couple of times. We got him in as a special admit.”

    And he proved to be a special talent. Erceg was a first-team All-Pac-12 player as a sophomore, slashing .303/.357/.502 as the Bears pushed Texas A&M in a competitive regional before losing in the finals. He displayed a strong arm on the mound in limited appearances and by the end of his sophomore year, there was plenty of buzz about his future as a first-round pick. (Vince Lara-Cinisomo - Baseball America - 10/17/2016)

  • Lucas' lack of parental guidance, and his unwillingness—or fear—to ask for help began to catch up. Erceg’s a bright guy—the 1520 he scored on his SAT to get into Cal makes that clear—but he had trouble staying focused. He was falling behind on the rigorous Cal coursework and knew he was in trouble.

    “I think it was time management,” Erceg said about his struggles at Cal. “I was not focused on what I was trying to do. I wanted to have a little fun with my teammates. I was going to Taco Tuesday instead of writing my papers.”

    Neu saw what was happening and felt powerless.“ He was on the borderline each term and didn’t always make great choices,” Neu said. “He made some bad choices, and with his situation, and not having family support, he wasn’t always in a great position to succeed.

    “We tried to help him. He was getting into the right classes, he was getting help off the field. He definitely needed a lot of support, and we tried to help.”

    Erceg acknowledged that, but says it wasn’t easy to reach out.

    “They all asked me that,” he said of Cal coaches and teammates. “’If you need anything, ask.’ I had a problem early on, asking for anything because I was in a silo of silence. I didn’t want to ask my mom because she would just yell and same with my dad. When teammates and coaches said, ‘Hey do you need help?’ I’d say, ‘I’m good.’ But I had two Ds, a couple of Cs, and I said, ‘What have I gotten myself into?’”

    Ultimately, Erceg couldn’t handle the load—school, sports, maybe some partying. He was not an alcoholic, but the lure of fun was too strong.

    “I really never had a problem with alcohol,” he said. “It was not focusing on the things I needed to do. I didn’t want to go out and drink, but I didn’t want to study, either, so I did the more fun of the two things.”

    He said he thought he would lose everything he had worked for. He was going to flunk out of Cal, and he was scrambling. After a great season for the University of California in 2015, Lucas became academically ineligible. So he transferred to Menlo College in California, an NAIA institution, that ironically enough, is just a short walk away from Stanford University.

    The situation wasn’t ideal at first. Erceg had let down his teammates at California, and most importantly, he had let himself down. But, the choice was clear, Erceg needed to learn a valuable lesson, press on and make the best of a rocky situation. He needed to show himself, and scouts, alike that he was committed to his responsibilities, and clearly, baseball.

    “I think the biggest thing for me is just realizing the mistakes I made in the past, and realizing that I need to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” he continued. “I think you have to look at the things you’ve done wrong, and you do right, and just move forward in general.”

    When he got to Menlo, he never looked back, rarely  mentioned his problems as a student at Cal. He just joined the team, and he helped younger players get comfortable. (Feb., 2016)Erceg did have support from his advisers (now his agents) at Sosnick Cobbe Karon. Given his background and family history, they were concerned about his future. They on decided Menlo, an NAIA school 25 miles from Erceg’s boyhood home.

    Not only did Erceg have a history with Menlo, having played there as a kid, he wouldn’t have to sit out as a transfer (because he would going to another Division I school). And the school’s 750-student population made it easier to for Lucas to focus, and for his nearby advisers to make sure he was going to class. Erceg’s mother—by that time clean and sober—had moved from Campbell, so that meant Erceg had to live on campus. It was a blessing in disguise.

    “Once I got to Menlo, it was so easy to walk to class, get breakfast, walk back to class, play baseball,” he said. “The baseball field was right across the street. It was the perfect little facility to focus on better.”

    But even getting into Menlo came with challenges. Erceg had to finish 24 credits—the equivalent of a full year’s load—in the fall semester in order to play ball that spring.

    “I never really thought it would be a reality,” he said. “I said, ‘Let’s put baseball aside.’ I really wanted to sit down and focus on being a better student, a better person. I always looked forward to playing ball. I never looked forward to passing 24 units.”

    But Erceg pulled it off, calling it one of his biggest accomplishments. Before he even played a game, he impressed his new coach.

    “It is remarkable . . . it was an unbelievable effort,” said Menlo coach Jacob McKinley, who was aware of Erceg’s off-field issues. He opened up to me, he shared with me personal details, but not in a way like it was, ‘woe is me.'  We developed a different kind of relationship, and I did the best I could to help him navigate through some baggage. But I never saw a red flag, and once I got to know him, he’s a wonderful person. He was always willing to do field work. He was never too big for the program.”

    Erceg did well at Menlo, tying for fifth in the NAIA with 20 homers. He might have been a first-round pick if he stayed at Cal and had success, but now he was looking at the second or third round. "There was a lot of speculation, but I couldn’t care if it was first overall—that would have been great—or the 40th round. I just wanted the opportunity to play.”

    Teams in the first round were interested, but Erceg wound up going to the Brewers with the 46th pick and signing for $1.1 million, via scout Joe Graham. The Brewers chose Erceg in the second round in June 2016. (Vince Lara - Cinisomo - Baseball America - 10/07/2016)

  • Drafted out of college in 2016, Lucas Erceg was thought to be a quick riser through the minor league system that could snag the everyday third base job when it came up for grabs. Erceg started minor league ball with a .327/.376/.518 slash line with nine home runs in 68 games after being selected in 2016.

    In 2017, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook rated Erceg as the 9th-best prospect in the Brewers organization in the spring of 2017. And he was moved to #8 in the winter before 2018 spring camp opened.

  • Spring Training 2017:  Thanks to an intrepid Goodyear Ballpark employee, Erceg's memorable home run is coming home.

    Lucas hit a pair of home runs in a Brewers Spring Training win over the Indians, including a grand slam that settled onto the roof of a pavilion in right field -- not bad for his first home run in a Major League uniform. When the Brewers returned the next day to play the Reds, the baseball was still perched there.

    Mike Vassallo, the team's public relations director, made several inquiries about retrieving the ball for Erceg. He was stymied until he met Rafael Laguan, a City of Goodyear electrician who enthusiastically agreed to help.  With a ladder, the two men climbed to the rooftop and came down with the baseball. Vassallo planned to hand deliver it to Erceg.  (McCalvy - mlb.com - 3/12/17)

  • 2020 Season: Erceg put up rough numbers last season while playing in the popup Constellation Energy League for the Sugar Land Lightning Sloths, hitting just .180 with a .447 OPS in 28 games.

  • April 2021: Since it’s become clear there won’t be a role for Erceg, now 25, on the Brewers as a third baseman, they are transitioning him back to the mound. Erceg pitched a little in college, and his strong throwing arm that made him such a good defensive third baseman will now help him on the mound.

    Erceg can get his velocity in the mid-90s, so there’s no concern there. The focus will have to be on refining his off-speed pitches, which will likely need some work considering his long layoff from pitching.

     According to the team, he’s not becoming a full-time pitcher, and will instead operate as a two-way player for the time being. Perhaps they’re still holding out some hope that they can squeeze some use out of his bat and he can find something. But his first window of opportunity to seize a big league job has already come and passed. Not many players get a second window. (David Gasper)

  • Former top prospect battled back from depression.

    Lucas Erceg, the former Top 30 Brewers prospect in the midst of converting from infielder to two-way player to full-time pitcher in a last-ditch effort to make the Majors, still occasionally awakens in a dark frame of mind.

    The 26-year-old decided to share his struggle with alcohol and depression, which was especially acute in 2020 after the Minor League season was cancelled amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Erceg concluded that being open is the best way to stay on a path to Milwaukee. How open? In large, gold stitching on his baseball glove is the embroidering, “6/10/20.” That was the first date of Erceg’s sobriety.

    "I’m talking about it proudly and I think before, I was in such denial and had such resentment about having those thoughts,” Erceg said on the eve of the first bullpen session of his first Spring Training as a full-time pitcher. “It drills you into dark, dark spaces."

    When did he decide to let others into those dark spaces?

    “It was just one morning that I woke up and was like, ‘[Forget] this, dude. I’m going to make a stand right now and make sure that I’m healthy,” Erceg said. “For me. Not for anybody else, but for me.”

    Erceg spoke of growing up in Campbell, Calif., just outside San Jose, with a mother who was an alcoholic and a father with whom he was never close. He didn’t get good grades in high school, but his ability to hit and pitch earned him a spot at college baseball powerhouse Cal Berkeley — only to lose that spot because of his drinking and other trouble off the field.

    So, Erceg went to play at tiny Menlo College for head baseball coach Jake McKinley, who now happens to be the Brewers’ vice president of player development. Erceg was the Oaks’ closer and third baseman, performing well enough to be the Brewers’ second-round Draft pick in 2016, which came with a $1.1 million signing bonus. Erceg quickly discovered that a million dollars buys a lot of lite beer.

    “I’m 22 years old, right? I’m drinking five or six beers and going out the next day and going 2-for-3. I didn’t think it was a problem,” he said. “I made it into a game: ‘If I have four tonight that means one hit tomorrow. So, if I have eight, that will be two hits.’"

    My mom had issues with alcohol, still does. I haven’t talked to her in the last three years because of it. I think a lot of that had to do with my resentment toward having an issue with it. So, what did I do about it? I drank more and said, ‘No, I don’t have an issue. I choose to do this because I’m my own man.’ It was just a lot of evil [stuff]. Evil.”

    After a strong debut season in pro ball, Erceg’s career began to stall. In 2017, he hit .259 with a .731 OPS while playing mostly at the High-A level. He slipped to a .248 average and a .688 OPS in 2018 at Double-A and then .218 and .703 in 2019 at Triple-A. In 2020, with no affiliated Minor Leagues, Erceg batted .180 for the Sugar Land Lightning Sloths of the Independent Constellation Energy League.

    He had a hard time with the uncertainty presented by the pandemic and the urge to fill idle days with trips to the convenience store around the corner from his Phoenix home. Erceg says he “buried” himself in alcohol and deepening depression.

    He became determined to stop drinking. On his first day of being sober, Erceg said “everything looked brighter.” It was “so uplifting, so enlightening, that everything had a tint to it.”

     He says he saw that effect when he looked at his fiancée, Emma. They announced their engagement last July and have talked about founding a program for athletes dealing with depression and suicidal ideation.

    “I wake up at 5:00 or 5:30 every morning and I still sometimes have thoughts like that,” Erceg said. “I think it’s important to recognize those thoughts but to not let them affect you negatively. You just have to say, ‘Those are my thoughts today. Let’s ride with it.’”

    In June 2021, Erceg marked one year sober alongside supportive teammates. He was back at Double-A Biloxi, this time working as a two-way player before eventually focusing exclusively on pitching. Erceg, whose strong arm always served him well at third base, has touched 99 mph on the radar gun and pitches with a four-seam fastball, a two-seam fastball, a changeup and a slider that needs work. He finished last year with a 5.29 ERA and 45 strikeouts in 47 2/3 innings at Biloxi. “No matter what happens in his baseball career, I am just proud of him as a person,” said McKinley, the college coach who followed Erceg to the Brewers.

    It was McKinley who, prior to 2021 Spring Training, had invited Erceg to Matt’s Big Breakfast in downtown Phoenix and presented the idea of adding pitching back to his repertoire. They spent hours together that day, but the pitching conversation lasted all of seven minutes, McKinley said.Erceg was all for it.

    "There's definitely some intriguing ingredients there,” McKinley said. “I'm stoked to see how he does, having more of a sole focus on pitching. I think it's tough to navigate two things. I’m curious to see how he does with the sole focus, and I trust he'll do really, really well.”

    Said Erceg: “I’ve always thought of pitching as the backup plan; it was never really the reality. So, to have this actually be part of my resume or whatever you want to call it is beyond belief. This game will humble you hard. Second-round pick and I’m still grinding. It’s obviously a great opportunity and I love every moment. There aren't so many second chances.”

    In his locker at Biloxi last year, Erceg kept a cooler stocked with non-alcoholic beer. When he allowed one hit and no earned runs in five innings to earn his first professional victory on Aug. 20, he cracked one.

    “Some days I wake up and I go, ‘What am I even trying for?’” Erceg said. “But I’m not going to keep lying in bed and have those thoughts. I’m going to wake up and make a fresh pot of coffee. That right there already excites me and puts me in a more positive state. That’s why I think it’s so important to recognize those thoughts and not immediately bury them.

    “At the end of the day, I’m healthy and I’m humming at 98 [mph], you know what I mean? That’s it. And I have a really good chance to make a lot of money. I can’t complain. I can’t.”  (February 25, 2022 - Adam McCalvy)

  • 2022 Season: Biloxi (AA)/Nashville (AAA)

    3-4, 4.55 ERA, 2 saves, 61.1 IP, 37 BB, 69 K in 49 appearances

    2022 was Erceg’s first full year as a pitcher after he took the two-way player approach in 2021. He stepped it up in Nashville (3.43 ERA in 33 appearances) and, at the very least, offers the Crew someone to take an inning or two from the back end of the bullpen.  (Harold Hutchison - Dec. 19, 2022)

  • MLB Debut (May 19, 2023): It has been quite the week for Lucas.

    A San Jose native who grew up loving the A’s, Erceg was acquired by his childhood team from the Brewers in exchange for cash considerations. Two days later, the right-hander joined the A’s in Houston and took the mound at Minute Maid Park against the reigning World Series champion Astros for his Major League debut.

    From getting selected in the second round of the 2016 MLB Draft as a position player, to recently converting to pitching, Erceg’s journey to the big leagues has certainly been interesting. Get to know the newest A’s reliever in this Q&A conducted by MLB.com Brewers beat reporter Adam McCalvy during Spring Training.

    MLB.com: What is it like being back in big league camp?

    Erceg: It's been great. I had a good, good enough, year last year to get this opportunity and I'm having a second appreciation for it. I think when I was in big league camp as a position player back in 2018 and 19, I kind of took advantage of all the extra stuff that came along with being on the big league side and I'm truly appreciative of this opportunity, just because it's that second opportunity for me to make the big leagues as a pitcher now.

    MLB.com: What has the transition to pitcher been like?

    Erceg: Last year was good. It was my first year as a full-time pitcher, so I had a lot of learning to do. I ended up going back to Double-A, which at first I took as not really a personal disregard toward me, but I originally felt like there was no faith in me trying to do this. But then I kind of sat down with a couple of people and they had me understand a different perspective that I'll get more innings at Double-A and actually learn how to pitch.

    I went into the season full stride, knowing that every outing was an opportunity to learn and to just take days one by one and keep learning and keep progressing. And that's what I did. Toward the end of the season, I got the promotion back up to Triple-A, and it was like a reset button. Hitters were a lot more seasoned. They knew how to stretch at-bats out and work at-bats in a different way. I just kept the same progressions and tried picking little things out that would allow me to get better after each outing. And actually, at the end of the year, I would say that I had a good year. I think that's why I'm back in big league camp as a pitcher. I think I earned that opportunity. And now I'm ready to go.

    MLB.com: How’s life going?

    Erceg: It's great. I just got married this offseason. I also just hit 32 months of sobriety. So that's two big life goals that I've achieved. Regarding the sobriety, I have no plans to break that chain. Body feels good. Everything is starting to fall back into place and it's cool to see that now from a different perspective.

    MLB.com:  How do you maintain that sobriety?

    Erceg: I mean, along with the support of my new wife, Emma, it's a daily reminder that there's another day to be appreciative. Even if it's a little rainy outside, you say, Man, today's a beautiful day, and I'm ready to enjoy what today has to offer.

    MLB.com:  What has it been like to have this unique path both as a player and in life?

    Erceg:  I think both of them coincide. There were a lot of struggles that I had as a hitter. And I think a lot had to do with the amount of drinks I drank every night. Looking back on it, I bet I would have been a completely different hitter had I decided to choose sobriety a little bit sooner, but it is what it is. I'm not going to let that mess with my head and think. 'Oh, man, I regret this and this.'  I don't think there's time for that. If you put all your efforts into what you did in the past, and let those remind you of who you were, and how it can negatively affect you, you can also do the same thing, but with a positive mindset. That's what I do now. And it helps. It really does. It's crazy.

    MLB.com: Do you think like a pitcher now?

    Erceg: I do. It's kind of easy to get on the mound and think like a pitcher. But I think when you're on the mound, you've got to be as simple-minded as possible and just focus on the execution standpoint and not really try and play so much chess. I think that as long as you can execute on the mound, you'll be in a good spot to succeed. Thinking as a hitter while you're on the mound, trying to be a pitcher will kind of get in the way of that.

    MLB.com: Is it true that you touched 100 mph last season?

    Erceg: I did. Yeah. I hit 100.6 mph last year. It was in Biloxi. And it was right after a questionable call, so I was a little fired up. It was also like 100 degrees, so the wind and the heat were kind of helping with that. But yeah, it was pretty cool. That's a pretty cool milestone. (M Gallegos - MLB.com - May 20, 2023)

  • In 2016, Erceg began his pro career as a third baseman and was heralded as one of Milwaukee’s top prospects. With each season that went by, however, Erceg battled alcoholism and struggled with depression, and his performance declined.

    Going through the COVID pandemic in 2020, Erceg became determined to stop drinking. A year later, he tinkered with becoming a two-way player at Double-A Biloxi before eventually focusing solely on pitching. Now, three years later, Erceg remains sober and is living out his dream.

    “All those long bus rides and times that I was digging myself into a deeper hole with alcohol and other mental struggles that I had, it’s finally come full circle,” Erceg said. “I’ve been telling all my friends and family that it still hasn’t hit me yet. I’m still waiting for that day. Right now, I’m just riding the wave and enjoying every moment.

    “All those times that I told my friends and family that I was trying to get here because of them, to finally have it happen and be home pitching for the Oakland A’s, it’s crazy.” (M Gallegos - MLB.com - May 30, 2023)

    TRANSACTIONS

  • June 2016: The Brewers chose Erceg in the second round (as a hitter), out of Menlo College in California.

  • May 17, 2023: The Brewers traded Erceg to the A's for cash.

Pitching
  • 2023 Season: It hasn’t been smooth sailing for Erceg for the entirety of his rookie season. After posting a 2.25 ERA and .583 opponents OPS through his first 16 games, he followed that up with a rough stretch of an 11.94 ERA over the following 19 games. Dating back to Aug. 24, Erceg has finished strong. He has not allowed a run in 14 of his last 15 appearances, holding a 0.51 ERA in 17 2/3 innings over that span.

    The mixture of highs and lows for Erceg this season led to his 4.75 ERA in his 50 relief appearances. One highlight has been his total of just one homer allowed over 55 innings, putting him at an average of 0.16 home runs allowed per nine innings that ranks as the lowest by an A’s pitcher with at least 50 innings pitched since 1972. (Martin Gallegos - Sept. 30, 2023)
    Erceg emerged in the A's bullpen as a hard thrower, averaging 97
    .9 mph. The fastball helped him fan 11.1 batters per nine innings.
     

Career Injury Report
  • Aug. 24-Sept. 4, 2018: Erceg was on the DL.

    Already dealing with a bulging disc in his lower back, Erceg was hit in the head with a pitch in April 2018 at Double-A Biloxi and struggled for several weeks to get going at the plate.

    Lucas had already received an injection in his lower back to relieve a bulging disc before the first pitch of the 2018 season. He 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.