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Brewers' Erceg continuing resurgence in AFL

MLB.com

MESA, Ariz. -- Milwaukee Brewers No. 10 prospect Lucas Erceg has been taking full advantage of a second chance at baseball.

After being declared academically ineligible at the University of California at Berkeley, Erceg transferred to Menlo College in Atherton, Calif., a small junior college where he was drafted by the Brewers in 2015.

MESA, Ariz. -- Milwaukee Brewers No. 10 prospect Lucas Erceg has been taking full advantage of a second chance at baseball.

After being declared academically ineligible at the University of California at Berkeley, Erceg transferred to Menlo College in Atherton, Calif., a small junior college where he was drafted by the Brewers in 2015.

"I had to really hit the reset button and sit down, prioritize my life and make the changes that I needed to make," Erceg said. "Once you're in that situation, you realize that you're messing up."

After his first season spent between Rookie and A ball, Erceg hit that reset button again with Class-A Advanced Carolina, where he produced his best offensive year by far as a Minor Leaguer. In 130 games spent between Carolina and Triple-A Colorado Springs in 2017, the left-handed hitter hit .259 with 15 home runs and 83 RBIs.

Video: Top Prospects: Lucas Erceg, 3B, Brewers

Between letting his family and friends down and also himself, Erceg made it a goal of his to address those concerns and to make sure that he took advantage of the same type of opportunities that he was given before.

"It's been a long time coming since that stage in my life," he said.

Erceg is batting .375 through five games in Arizona, and he went 2-for-4 with an RBI and his first home run of the Arizona Fall League season on the way to helping Salt River defeat the Mesa Solar Sox, 6-5, on Wednesday afternoon.

Gameday

For Erceg, his focus at the plate has been rather simple. No overthinking, just a straightforward approach.

"For the most part, I haven't been focusing too much on the result but more on the process and just trusting in the process," Erceg said.

On his home run which came in the fourth inning and tied the game 2-2, Erceg was a bit surprised by what he saw.

"I hadn't really seen a fastball before with spin like that," he said. "It was more a cutter except it didn't move as much, and that whole at-bat I was just trying to tell myself, 'see the ball, hit the ball somewhere hard.'"

On a full-count pitch from Detroit Tigers' No. 28 prospect Spencer Turnbull, Erceg stuck to his approach, and the result paid off for Salt River.

Video: Top Prospects: Spencer Turnbull, RHP, Tigers

"That 3-2 pitch, he tried to sneak in a cutter on me and just sticking to the approach, I caught barrel and got it good," Erceg said.

In terms of what Erceg is hoping to do while in the Arizona Fall League, he's hoping to improve on both areas of the game. Defensively, his athleticism should help him stick at third base, where he has a strong arm -- one that fired 93-94 mph fastballs as Menlo's closer.

The Brewers have been looking to develop a third baseman for some time, and in Erceg they may have a strong option.

"I'm mostly working on footwork," Erceg said. "Back hands, and trying to get my feet in the right position to field the ball and just working on trying to take better angles to the ball."

At the plate, it comes down to simplifying things and working on the parts of his approach that he's struggled with in the past.

"I'm just trying to stay with a consistent approach," he said. "I'm just trying to stay in the middle because I tend to pull off the baseball and try to 'go deep' as they say. People like the long ball but it doesn't work for me and my swing."

Salt River's win on Wednesday improved its record to 3-5, tying Mesa for second place in the East Division as they fell to 3-5.

Erceg was one of seven Salt River hitters to record a hit with center fielder Braxton Lee (Marlins), shortstop Jack Reinheimer (D-backs No. 25), and catcher Rodrigo Vigil (Marlins) also recording two hits on the day.

Baltimore Orioles No. 8 prospect Keegan Akin threw three scoreless innings in relief for the Rafters, giving up just one hit with two strikeouts. He was rewarded with his first win of the Arizona Fall League season.

Eddie Poe is a graduate journalism student at Arizona State University. This story is a part of a partnership between MLB.com and ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.