On Monday, I got a chance to head down to Zebulon, North Carolina to see Lucas Sims and the Lynchburg Hillcats take on the Carolina Mudcats. Sims was Atlanta's first overall draft choice in 2012 and is the organization's consensus top prospect. What I saw on Monday was a mixed bag, but it shouldn't diminish his star one bit.
The first thing you notice about Lucas Sims is that he's a pretty big dude. He stands taller than most of the other Hillcats and has broad shoulders and long legs. It's his big frame that lead some to believe he could add a few ticks to his fastball as he matures and fills out. He carried himself with a quiet intensity throughout his start, one of those "makeup" qualities you can't (and shouldn't try to) analyze, but that you like to see.
On the mound, Sims stands facing the batter (shoulders parallel with the rubber) with his glove in front of his face. His delivery is nice and easy with a very small hitch as he delivers. It's a delivery that seems smooth and easily repeatable, though he will need to work on consistency. Occasionally, when Sims would deliver to the plate, he would fly open, leading to a pitch that was almost always up and away to LHH. Sims's HBP came when he flew open delivering a fastball to a RHH.
Sims's fastball was his go-to pitch all night, and it sat at 93 pretty easily for the entirety of his start. He even ticked it up to 95 on a few occasions. He had good (but not great) command of the pitch, and it had a decent amount of late life to it. All three of Sims's whiffs came off his fastball, and he struck out several hitters looking at it over the corners. His problems, again, came when he missed up with it (usually due to flying open). When he did miss up, the Carolina hitters didn't miss. Both of the homers he allowed came on high fastballs that were absolutely crushed.
Some of this, however, can be attributed to his breaking pitches. Put bluntly, they were not good. Sims was completely unable to throw his curve for a strike; by my count, roughly 80% of the curves he threw went for balls. As for his changeup, he may have thrown five. None were strikes. As a result, Mudcat hitters were perfectly content to spit on his offspeed stuff and sit fastball, and that's exactly what they did. Sims threw about 15-20 curves, and maybe two or three actually generated swings. The movement of the pitch wasn't bad and showed some serious promise, but the spin wasn't tight and it was often way outside or in the dirt. After tossing 6 curves in his first inning, he kept cutting back until he scrapped it all together by the 4th because of the lack of control. The change didn't make an appearance after second and frankly was fringy at best. I think it will improve, but it was nothing special on Monday.
With the Mudcats sitting fastball, Sims struggled. If he threw a hittable fastball, it got hammered. If he went offspeed, they didn't swing. As a result, he gave up a bunch of line drives and a bunch of deep counts. Never a recipe for success.
All that said, I did see a ton of potential. The fastball's solid, and the curve shows tons of potential. The changeup is meh but could come around. He'll have to get the knack of commanding his breaking pitches more consistently going forward, but I suspect that will come with repetition.
Potential Future Grades