With the 21st selection of the 2012 Minor League Draft the Atlanta Braves selected right-handed pitcher Lucas Sims from Brookwood High School (GA). The Braves are notorious for heavily scouting their home state for talent and the selection of Sims is just another example of them doing their due diligence in their own backyard. The Braves selection of Sims marks the seventh player they have drafted out of the state of Georgia in with their 1st round choice since 2000 and it’s a list that includes Adam Wainwright, Jeff Francoeur, and Jason Heyward. A life long Braves fan, Sims is living the dream by joining an organization that is close to home and close to his heart. His favorite player growing up was John Smoltz and he will look to follow in Smoltz’s footsteps as he begins his journey to Turner Field. However, Sims was not always destined for the mound. He played shortstop for three seasons before trying his hand at pitching for his senior season. Obviously the results were off the charts.
The Braves have officially added the 18 year old Sims to their collection of young developing arms as he recently inked his first professional contract and will receive a $1.65 million dollar signing bonus. The bonus is $175,000 below recommended slot value and the surpluse should help the Braves with future signings.
Athleticism and upside are the two words that describe Sims best. Since converting from shortstop, Sims has taken to the mound quickly and his athleticism is one of the main reasons for his early success. There are varying reports on his fastball but all of them are impressive. He works in the low to mid 90s with the ability to hit 97 mph when he reaches back for more. He has shown advanced feel for a sharp curveball that can be a nasty pitch when he throws it well. Sims also has a power slider which has solid movement that flashes plus. He still has to work on developing and improving upon these secondary offerings, specifically his change-up if he wants to stay in the rotation at the next level
Sims has a fluid motion. He does have a high leg kick but it has not adversely impacted his control or delivery and it adds a dimension of deception for batters. Considering he has just a year of consistent work off the mound, Sims’ ceiling and upside are hard to quantify. He has the makings of a right-handed power pitcher but the development of his secondary pitches is what is going to determine if he has All-Star like upside in a rotation or if he is a key contributor to the back of a bullpen. In his first full season as a pitcher Sims went 8-1 with a 1.19 ERA for Brookwood this spring, so he got results but that was against high school hitters. How he handles the transition to pro ball will be interesting to follow.
Here is what Baseball America had to say about Sims – who was ranked 29th on their draft board:
“Sims has been a factor in this draft class since being invited to USA Baseball’s 16U trials in 2010, and he pitched last summer in the Prospect Classic for the 18U team, tossing a scoreless inning against the Collegiate National Team. Sims has been the most consistent high school pitcher in Georgia this spring, pushing him up toward the back of the first round. He has a fairly clean arm action and no obvious or significant mechanical issues. Sims consistently flashed three plus pitches this spring, including a fastball that has touched 97 mph at times and generally sits in the 90-93 mph range. He struggles at times to finish his pitches out front, causing him to leave his stuff up in the zone. Sims throws his slider with power in the low 80s, and at times it has good depth as well. He has the ability to spin a breaking ball, and he’s shown a solid curveball as well that’s about 10 mph slower than his slider. A Clemson recruit, Sims figures to squeeze into the back of the first round thanks to his present stuff and track record.”
There are a lot of different ways Sims can develop as a pitcher but I expect the Braves to try and slowly bring him along. He will need to focus on his secondary offerings – like most HS pitchers – as well as his mental approach to pitching since he has such limited exposure to the role. His innings should be closely monitored because, while talented, he is still very new to the workload that comes with being a starter.
Sims has the upside of a #2 starter in my opinion because he found a home in an organization that has an excellent track record of maximizing its pitcher’s potential. He also has a very advanced arsenal considering his limited experience with three current offerings that can all be plus (fastball, slider, curve) and with the development of a change-up he could maximize his potential. If he fails to develop a change-up or if the Braves decide to shift him to a bullpen role he has the arsenal to work in the late innings and potentially close out games. Obviously the rotation is where he should stay and it looks like the Braves agree since they have already tabbed him for the Gulf Coast League to be a part of their rotation. Braves fans should not expect to see Sims in Atlanta until 2016 at the earliest as he will have to build up his innings and learn the nuances of pitching.
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