The Atlanta Braves could use some good news. Here's some: pitching prospect Lucas Sims leads all minor league pitchers everywhere with 42 strikeouts in his first 26.2 innings this spring.
Sims has been well-known to prospect followers for years, having been a first round pick by the Braves in 2012 from high school in Snellville, Georgia. His stock has fluctuated but is definitely back on the rise.
Basic commentary from the 2016 Baseball Prospect Book:
Lucas Sims, RHP, Atlanta Braves
Bats: R Throws: R HT: 6-2 WT: 195 DOB: May 10, 1994
2013: Grade B-; 2014: Grade B+; 2015: Grade BLucas Sims had his second consecutive inconsistent season (consistent inconsistency?), pitching brilliantly at times but faltering just often enough to keep himself on the edges of top prospect lists. He lost some time last summer recovering from Carolina’s team bus accident and it took a while to iron out the resulting physical issues, but he finished strongly with three outstanding starts to end the year with Mississippi (one run in 19 innings, 22/5 K/BB). When Sims is right he shows 92-94 MPH heat with an excellent curveball and a good-enough change-up. His mechanics remain a source of mild concern; they look smooth at their best but sometimes appear "shouldery" if you know what I mean, which gets in the way of his command and make it look like he’s putting a lot of physical effort into his work. However, other than bus accidents he’s been reasonably durable so I don’t think his injury risk is any higher than the typical pitcher his age. We’ll hold with a Grade B.
Sims opened 2016 with Double-A Mississippi, posting a 1.84 ERA in 14.2 innings in his first three starts, fanning 26 and giving up just seven hits but walking 10. Promoted to Triple-A Gwinnett two weeks ago, he has a 2.25 ERA in his first two outings with a 16/6 K/BB in 12 innings, just eight hits allowed.
Obviously the health problems he suffered in last year's bus crash are a thing of the past and he picked up where he left off late last year. Everything is coming together for him stuff-wise: plus fastball in the low-to-mid-90s, plus curve, change-up improved.
He's always had the high cheese demonstrated in that clip but it works even better now that his off-speed pitches are more consistent. He's also made a lot of progress refining and smoothing out his mechanics.
Despite the early domination, Sims is not quite a finished product as his walk rate remains elevated. It hasn't hurt him this year because his stuff has been so good, but that may not hold true in the majors if he's promoted too quickly. While additional Triple-A time seems like a good plan, Sims will likely be up at some point this season. He's certainly done enough in the early going to raise his rating to a Grade B+.
More Video from Moore Baseball, no pun intended.