CLEARWATER, Fla. — Let me preface this by writing that I am not declaring the potential major league career of one Lucas Sims dead, and at the age of 21 years old he may still evolve into a pitcher worthy of being the Braves’ first-round pick in 2012.
However . . .
Sims, once touted as the top prospect in the Braves’ organization, was beaten up by Philadelphia in his first spring appearance Friday. The ugly numbers: five earned runs, three hits (including a double) and three walks in just 1.2 innings.
Sims’ tough lesson: “It showed me what happens when you can’t throw your breaking ball for a strike.”
Sims was the 21st overall pick out of Brookwood High School in the 2012 draft, for which he received a $1.6 million signing bonus. He was listed as the Braves’ No. 1 prospect in 2013, but then fell to No. 3 in 2014 (passed by the since-traded Jose Peraza and pitcher Mike Foltynewicz) and now is listed as No. 10.
There are three possible reasons for the slide from 1 to 3 to 10:
• 1. The Braves have accumulated a number of touted prospects through trades over the past year and a half. Therefore, it’s only natural Sims might be pushed down the rankings.
• 2. The Braves’ minor-league organization was dying a slow death under former general manager Frank Wren, not that he would ever acknowledge that … or any miscalculation, for that matter.
• 3. Sims was a bit overrated to begin with.
I’ve seen what happens before when one regime takes over for another and the soundbites that come when a draft pick doesn’t develop.
New front office: “Don’t blame us. We didn’t pick that guy.”
Old front office: “They screwed up my draft pick.”
We’ll see how Sims develops. But the early results haven’t been comforting. His best season came in Single A ball with Rome in 2013 (12=4, 2.62, 134 strikeouts in 116 2/3 innings). His overall minor-league results: 29-25, 3.74 ERA in 87 appearances (77 starts), 380 strikeouts, 170 walks, 45 hit batters, 40 wild pitches.
He also had the misfortune of being among the 29 players who were on the team bus for the Single A Carolina Mudcats last season when it ran off the road in North Carolina and slid into a ditch, flipping on its side. Seven players went to the hospital and six wound up on the disabled list, including Sims, who had a bruised hip.
He’s healthy now. He just needs to be better.
The Braves have stripped themselves of proven veterans and hitched their future to the development of young players. If Sims doesn’t develop, he’ll stand as one of the cautionary tales of the strategy.
After his outing, Sims said he needs to “slow down a little bit more. … Sometimes those emotions, the adrenaline gets going. I feel like I got a little bit too out front of myself.”
Does it bother him to no longer see himself as one of the Braves’ top few prospects?
“I know the ballplayer I am,” he said. “I don’t really worry too much about what the other guys do. … We all have the same goal at the end of the day. We all want to be in Atlanta. I’m more concerned about what I need to do to be successful.”
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