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2023 Athletics Season in Review: Lucas Erceg

Lucas Erceg overcame plenty of obstacles to reach the majors and emerged as a key piece of Oakland’s bullpen.

Oakland Athletics v Minnesota Twins Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

The Oakland Athletics took a flyer on Lucas Erceg in a mid-May trade with the Milwaukee Brewers and he emerged as an intriguing piece of their bullpen. Erceg’s surface numbers might not have been impressive, but if you look a little deeper, he quietly put together a solid season.

How Acquired?

The Athletics acquired Erceg from the Brewers on May 17 in exchange for cash considerations.

What were the expectations?

Oakland’s bullpen was plagued by injury and inconsistent performance throughout the early part of the season. There wasn’t anything in the way of serious expectations for Erceg when he arrived, but he quietly soaked up 55 innings and was relied on heavily.

2023 Results

A 4.75 ERA jumps out at you when you give a quick glance at Erceg’s numbers. However, dig a little deeper and his 3.74 xERA and 3.31 FIP tell a bit of a different story. It isn’t terribly surprising that Erceg pitched much better at the Coliseum than he did on the road, but injuries to the likes of Zach Jackson, Dany Jimenez and others left the A’s in desperate need of someone to provide innings. Erceg filled that role reasonably well posting a 27.1% strikeout rate while allowing just one home run over his 55 innings. His 14.3% walk-rate is something that certainly needs to be cleaned up and he may have a hard time duplicating that home run prevention, but all in all, it was a solid debut for a pitcher making his major league debut.

What went right? What went wrong?

It is hard to say that anything went wrong for Erceg in 2023. He was drafted as an infielder and has had battles with alcohol and depression during his professional career. He made the switch to pitching in 2021 and found himself in the big leagues two years later. Looking at his season with Oakland, he struggled in August, but his FIP by month was otherwise pretty stable. It is a great story of a player persevering and then finally reaching the majors.

2024 Outlook

Erceg won’t turn 29 until May and will come to spring camp looking to lock down a spot in the bullpen for 2024. He still has options remaining, which adds even more flexibility and no doubt helps his cause. The walk-rate needs to improve, but he showed good velocity and with improved command, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the strikeout rate tick up.