With their first round pick in 2012, the Braves selected Brookwood graduate Lucas Sims. He paid quick dividends, jumping into top 100 lists after his first full season and remaining on many going into this season. He ran into some trouble with High A Lynchburg and Carolina, and was further set back by the Mudcats bus crash this spring. Soon after his return from the DL, the Braves pushed him to AA Mississippi. In turn he has lost much of his prospect status, holding on as a fringe top 10 in the system by many rankings. The Braves have been rightfully patient with the 21 year old, and have not been afraid to challenge him by moving him up to higher levels at a young age. There is still a belief in his stuff, and the Braves hope he can turn a corner in his development soon.
Level: Class AA- Mississippi Braves
Position: Starting Pitcher
Height/Weight: 6'2" 195 lbs
Born: 5/10/1994 Lawrenceville, GA
Drafted: 1st Round (21 overall) in 2012 by Atlanta
Bats: Right Throws: Right
14 G; 6-6; 6.19 ERA; 56.2 IP; 38 BB, 59 K; 1.68 WHIP; 1 CG; 6.0 BB/9; 9.4 K/9
Sims raised concerns with a poor season in 2014, punctuated by a 6.2 K/9 rate. He has recovered his strikeout numbers, but has seen his walk rate jump nearly 3 walks per 9 innings. His ERA has followed suit, rising to a career high 6.19. He had struggled to start the season, and just as he began to turn it around was injured in the bus crash. He has shown flashes of his previous dominance, including striking out 8 over 6 innings in his final start in Carolina, but his wildness has been noticeable every time I have watched him. The general downward trajectory of his numbers has been concerning, however he has yet to show any drop off in stuff necessary
Lucas has a very easy, repeatable delivery and has shown ability to repeat it on a consistent basis in his young career. He puts low stress on his body and repeats his arm angle and release point well on all of his pitches. He has an athletic build, but can lose his landing point and release point at times and that is typically when he has his control problems. He seemed to tire late in games that I watched, and would lose command of his fastball. He's a strikeout pitcher, and his batted ball ratios are average across the board.
Sims throws a good fastball that he works 91-93 and can top out at 95. He generates good arm side bite and commands the pitch very well when he maintains his command. He also does a good job of getting swings and misses on the pitch and often can retire hitters with just his fastball working. There is not very much projection left in his frame, so the 91-93 should be seen as his top end stuff.
The changeup is a solid average to slightly above average pitch, one that he delivers very well. He repeats his mechanics well on the pitch, adding to his deception, and has the desired velocity difference. Command of his change is behind his other pitches, though he has worked to improve it. He works solid movement on the pitch and it should be effective to both left handed and right handed batters
His curveball is a true strikeout pitch, and he throws hit with a sharp, mostly downward break. It is an easy plus pitch,and he works it well low in the zone. He shows the ability to backdoor the pitch and get batters to chase, and is willing to throw it in any count. It is much more advanced that his changeup, and he has a good feel for the pitch. He throws it in the mid to upper 70's, and trusts the pitch even when he doesn't have his best stuff. It is an easy plus offering, that in combo with his plus fastball makes for a devastating 1-2 combo.
Sims gets frustrated in himself easy, especially when he struggles with his command. He tends to overthrow the ball and further lose his mechanics, leading to big innings and high pitch counts. Sims does show the ability to bounce back from his own mental blocks, and sometimes channels his frustration into an even better performance. He has yet to learn how to completely control his emotions, though this should not be concerning as he is just 21 and will be so for the remainder of the season. Braves director of of player developments made comments about his makeup in an article about Sims with the Charlotte Observer on May 10 (which I will link to below. It is a nice read, and the chart at the bottom really puts Sims development in context.). He raves about Sims' toughness and work ethic, skills that the Braves new front office seems to target in their young players. According to the article Sims seems to be taking his lumps very well, and not lost confidence in himself or his pitches.
Sims is the only homegrown pitcher the Braves have that is considered a top prospect at this point. He has turned in a disappointing last 2 seasons, but has shown the mentality and the stuff to work past those struggles. The days of him being considered a future number 2 starter are likely done, though hope is still abound that he will be a solid #3-4. His struggles in the minors should benefit him in the future if he can learn from them and learn how to handle failure and bounce back. There is some risk to Sims, though there is plenty of potential to make it all worth it. Whether he stays in rotation or moves to the bullpen is a question, as Sims could be an impact closer with his fastball-curve combination. For the moment Atlanta sees him as a solid rotation piece, and he should be given a chance late in 2017 barring setbacks
The Carolina Mudcats and announcer Greg Young run a series of sit down interviews called "In The Dugout" with various Mudcats players. This is their video with Lucas Sims