As Braves acquire prospects, Lucas Sims still trying to prove his worth

January 23, 2014 Atlanta - Atlanta Braves rookie pitcher and 2012 No. 1 pick Lucas Sims practices during the Braves Rookie Development Week at Turner Field in Atlanta on Thursday, January 23, 2014. The Atlanta Braves hosts 28 of the organization's prospects at the Braves Rookie Development Week, from January 21 to January 25. In addition to providing training, the program is intended to introduce the prospects to the Turner Field environment and to the Atlanta community. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Braves rookie pitcher and former No. 1 draft pick Lucas Sims had a rough outing Friday and is still trying to prove his worth in the organization. (Hyosub Shin / hshin@ajc.com)

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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5 comments
DiamondDawg17
DiamondDawg17

Seriously? I'm glad we didn't cut Smoltz after his first rough start in the spring, or dump Chipper the first time he started the spring 0-4. . It has been widely reported that the Braves added quite a few highly rated players in the last year, some who moved directly to the top of the prospect list. Sims will likely get a shot at the majors a few years ahead of Tuscant (sp?) even though Tuscant has a higher potential upside. When it comes right down to it, prospect ratings are about as meaningful as the first outing of the spring. Both give sports writers a reason to write a column, but neither goes very far in predicting which players will end up as quality Major leaguers.

E983
E983

Kid needs some work. Too early to send him packing. Looking at his stats in A ball tells me somebody in Rome was making headway with the kid. Hanging out with Roger McDowell is a big plus no doubt. Give him some time Jeff. He's only 21.

gwbroo
gwbroo

You write this article after 1 spring training game? From what I've read he's made a lot of improvement late last summer and fall. C'mon man ...