Braves Return To Georgia Roots With Sims





Tony DeMacio has always admitted he's a disciple of legendary scouting director Paul Snyder. For the first time in three drafts, DeMacio followed in the footsteps of his mentor by going with a high-ceiling high school pitcher who hails from the Peach State.

With the 21st overall selection, DeMacio and the Braves took righthander Luke Sims, a product of nearby Brookwood High in Snellville, Ga. Sims is coming off a senior season in which he guided his team to the state championship game while going 8-1, 1.19 with 98 strikeouts in 76 innings.

"We are happy to be able to draft a Georgia boy, especially one from our backyard who is a great athlete with a great arm and great makeup," DeMacio said in a press release. "We are looking forward to getting him into the fold as soon as possible. We think we have a top-of-the-rotation type of player."

Sims emerged on the national scene in 2010 when he was a member of USA Baseball's 16U team and posted a 3.86 ERA with six strikeouts in seven innings for the gold medal-winning squad. The 6-foot-2, 195-pounder also twirled in the Prospect Classic for USA Baseball's 18U team last summer and tossed a scoreless inning against the Collegiate National Team.

According to several scouts within the organization, the Braves were enamored with numerous aspects of Sims' game, beginning with his plus athleticism, particularly for a pitcher. When not on the mound for Brookwood, Sims served as the team's starting shortstop the past three seasons. His arm works well with his smooth mechanics, although he could need some tweaking in order to hone his control and bring his pitches down in the strike zone.

Sims moved to the top of the class in Georgia this spring with his consistency, impressive mound presence and ever-improving repertoire. His fastball sits in the low 90s and has been clocked as high as 97 mph. He also throws a slider in the low 80s that shows above-average depth and a sharp, late break. Sims displayed a curveball and a changeup over the course of the spring, with his breaking ball residing in the mid-70s. Most scouts believe he will have three plus pitches in the near future, which should allow him to make a steady climb along the organizational ladder.

The selection of Sims is reminiscent of the Braves' drafts under Snyder and former scouting director Roy Clark, in which taking young pitchers and local products were commonplace. The Braves took three straight Georgia high school players from 2000-02 in Adam Wainwright, Macay McBride and Jeff Francoeur.

In his first two drafts, DeMacio used his first picks to select a high school shortstop in current center fielder Matt Lipka in 2010 and Florida State lefthander Sean Gilmartin in 2011. The last Georgia player nabbed by Atlanta in the first round came in 2007 in outfielder Jason Heyward, and the last high school pitcher selected by the Braves in the first round was Brett DeVall in 2008.

Not unlike Francoeur, who also hailed from Gwinnett County, Sims is part of Clemson's recruiting class but is expected to sign. He has said in the past that his favorite player while growing up was former Brave John Smoltz.

WIGWAM WISPS

• The Braves' second-round draft pick will be the 85th overall selection, with the team also having the 21st choice in rounds three through 40.

• The Andrelton Simmons era began in Atlanta just prior to the two-year anniversary of the shortstop being drafted in the second round out of Western Oklahoma State JC. Simmons was hitting .292/.372/.421 at Double-A Mississippi when he was called upon to replace fellow rookie Tyler Pastornicky on the major league 25-man roster.