Lucas Sims was once the best prospect the Atlanta Braves farm system. A few accolades, a bus accident, and an uninspiring MLB debut later and Sims has moved on to a new ballpark.
Let’s continue our look back at some of the highly touted Braves prospects that may or may not have reached their seemingly endless potential.
Lucas Sims, the Braves top prospect
The Braves took their homegrown product out of Brookwood prep school 21st overall in the first round of the 2012 MLB draft. The young right-hander checked all the boxes: he had a projectable frame, solid mechanics, a big fastball and a curve that was arguably the best in his class.
Sims debuted that same draft season reaching the Appy League as an 18-year-old, but it was in 2013 that he caught the attention of those outside Georgia with an outstanding debut in full-season ball. The 19-year-old went 12-4 with a 2.62 ERA and 1.11 WHIP, striking out 10.3 batters-per-nine in Rome en route to a Braves’ MiLB Player of the Year season. Hopes were high entering his age-20 season in the Carolina League in 2014.
Then, the ride that was the Lucas Sims rollercoaster began. Sims did not come close to repeating his 2013 performance in his 2014 debut with Lynchburg — as the youngest player in the Carolina League, mind you — and got off to an equally rocky start the following season with the Carolina Mudcats repeating the level. After finally looking like he was back on track in May, Sims was injured in the Mudcats’ bus accident and took a long time to regain that momentum he was building prior. Despite missing most of May and June that 2015 season, Sims made the jump to Double-A and finished strongly — again the youngest pitcher in the league — allowing just three earned runs while striking out 33 over his last five starts.
Sims then spent the next three seasons up and down from Gwinnett and Atlanta. Once considered one of the smoothest and stronger deliveries in the lower minors, it took some time for Sims to iron out his delivery after that bus accident. He was at his strongest in Gwinnett in 2018, the fastball pumping and curve dropping and buckling knees, striking out 83 in 73 innings with a 2.84 ERA and 1.37 WHIP. He simply couldn’t convert that success at the big league level.
Lucas Sims, Cincinnati Red
Sims made his big-league debut at 23 with the Braves and made 10 starts in 14 appearances, allowing 36 earned runs in 57.2 innings pitched while striking out 44 and walking 23. More frighteningly, he allowed 10 hits per nine and nine of the 64 hits he did allow were home runs.
He was traded at the 2018 deadline with Preston Tucker and Matt Wisler to the Reds for Adam Duvall. Sims finished his brief Atlanta Braves career with a 3-6 record, 5.96 ERA and 1.57 WHIP.
It’s hard to say if there is a winner or loser in this trade just yet. With the bevy of youth in the pitching department and inconsistencies at the upper levels, Sims became expendable. Tucker came back to the Braves a month later and hasn’t seen a MLB pitch since the end of 2018. Wisler is now on his fourth team since leaving the Braves in July of 2018, looking much more like organizational depth than a fixture in anyone’s pitching staff.
Duvall exploded in Triple-A Gwinnett last year and upon being called up in the second half of the season had some big home runs and timely hits on the Braves NL East championship run and concluding with a strong NLDS against the St. Louis Cardinals. All that said, he’s still buried on the depth chart.
Sims? If you’re a Braves fan and have followed his career, it’s hard to believe the righty is still only 25 with plenty of pitching left in him. He had his best MLB performance in 2019 making 24 appearances primarily out of the bullpen for the Reds. Sims may never reach his full potential of being that front-end starter, but he can still spin a career out of being a valuable arm out of the pen for a very intriguing Reds squad.