I was in Lexington last week to see the Low-A Rome Braves take on the Lexington Legends. The Legends have a few interesting prospects such as Raul Mondesi - SS who can defend but needs offensive polish, which is okay because he’s 17 - and Bubba Starling - 2011 5th overall pick who struggles to make contact but who still has speed, an arm, and power - but the overall team is pretty underwhelming. Rome’s overall team is pretty solid. There are a number of solid minor-league hitters and pitchers on the staff, and there are even a number of solid prospects to headline the roster. Today, I’ll talk about the pitchers I saw over the three-game series.
Lucas Sims, RHP
Last year’s first pick was stellar. His fastball sat 90-93, and he could touch 94 and 95 when trying to put hitters away. The pitch has a bit of arm-side run to it, but if he keeps living up in the zone with it, the movement wasn’t enough that he’ll avoid more long balls as he moves up the ladder. Sims adds his signature curveball to the mix. It sits in the 76-78 mph range, and it definitely has swing-and-miss action right now. The issue remains his control/command of the pitch, which he’ll still throw in the dirt a little too often. As a little surprise, Sims threw a second breaking ball in the low-80s that I would call a slurve as it wasn’t tight enough to call a slider. He might’ve just gotten on the side of the curveball, causing the additional horizontal movement, but it might also be a second breaking ball. Finally, Sims has a developing change-up. As of now, it’s a straight change with little movement, but he did throw it with excellent arm speed, fooling a few hitters and getting some weak contact. It still needs work, but it was good to see.
Sims delivery is pretty standard, but it has a hitch in it that isn’t “optimal”. As he takes his arm back, it looks like a “7”, and as he brings the arm around, he brings his elbow straight up instead of gradually turning his arm around the elbow. This creates the torque that generates his arm speed and helps with his curveball, but it is additional torque on his elbow. Otherwise, Sims did an excellent job of staying on line with the plate and repeating his delivery in this game.
Williams Perez, RHP
Perez started the second game of the series, and his curveball devastated the Legends. His curveball was pretty similar in range and action to Sims’, and he elicited 9 swings-and-misses in 4 innings. Perez threw his fastball in the 90-91 mph range, but he could touch 93 occasionally. The issue was he was 87-89 by the fourth inning, and he was out of there after the 4th. He could be continuing to work on arm strength, but considering he only threw 2 pitches and had some stamina issues, his future may be in the bullpen. He is a smaller guy (height-wise), and the stamina is just something to keep an eye on for now. No reason to move him out of the rotation yet. But if he does end up in the ‘pen, an Anthony Varvaro-ish role could be in his future, which has some definite value.
Andry Ubiera, RHP
Ubiera made it even fewer innings than Perez, but he showed some quality stuff. He threw his fastball in the same range as Perez, but he didn’t have the breaking ball the other two starters did. Ubiera threw two variations - a slower one in the low-70s and a harder one in the high-70s - but neither was particularly good. The right-hander is a bit more of project than the other two, who are still projects in and of themselves, but he’s got some value.
Shae Simmons, RHP
A 22nd round pick built in the physical mold of Craig Kimbrel, Simmons has a big arm - hitting 94-96 mph - and overpowered Lexington’s poor offense with just his fastball. The slider is still a work on progress as it doesn’t have much movement or depth, and he didn’t control it well, even hitting a batter with one. Simmons fastball is enough to give him some sort of major-league value, but what that ends up being - middle reliever or late-inning work - will depend on the development of a secondary pitch.
Robert Fish, LHP
Fish was the Braves’ Rule 5 pick before the 2012 season, and he spent the 2012 season on the DL after having Tommy John surgery. He’s back now, but he wasn’t impressive at all. With an all-or-nothing delivery, he sat at 88-89 with his fastball, bumping 90 a couple times. His breaking ball was iffy, and I didn’t see anything worth a major-league roster spot unless he gains more velocity as he continues to recover from TJ.
Alex Wilson, RHP
Wilson was the Braves’ 12th round pick from last year, and I’m not sure I saw a lot more from him than Fish. His fastball is a bit better, hitting 90 and 91 a bit more often, but he didn’t add a secondary pitch of much note. He threw strikes, however, and that has some value, even if it’s just as minor-league filler.
Bryam Garcia, RHP
Garcia is a small-statured pitcher, but he could throw 90-91 with a solid curveball. While that sounds okay, his control wavers, and he went from a 1 BB first inning to walking in a couple runs in his next inning. He uses a lot of effort in his delivery, and there’s some cross-fire in it. If he cleans up the control - he is 24 in Low-A so … - the stuff is okay.
Zach Jadofsky, RHP
Jadofsky is physically what you want a pitcher to look like - 6’3, 210 with long, strong legs. Unfortunately, the fastball isn’t what you’d expect given his physical appearance. Sitting at 88 mph and touching 90, it has some sink, but you’d really prefer if he threw harder. He adds a decent curveball, but unless he throws harder at some point, he probably won’t make the majors.