The 21st overall selection in the 2012 draft, righthander Lucas Sims could be the poster boy for player development.
In each of the past three seasons, Sims has spent part of the campaign making improvements after experiencing rough patches at that level the year before.
In 2016, he ran up a 7.56 ERA during a two-month stint at Triple-A Gwinnett before finding his rhythm back at Double-A Mississippi. Sims wound up ranking fifth in the minors with 159 strikeouts, but his inconsistent control led to 92 walks.
The 2017 campaign had been a different story at Gwinnett. The 23-year-old Sims, who attended high school in Snellville, Ga., went 4-0, 2.16 through seven starts with 42 strikeouts and nine walks in 41.2 innings. Opponents hit just .171.
“To his credit, we had him attend instructional league last fall and he came to the camp with the purpose of improving his delivery to better his fastball command,” farm director Dave Trembley said. “His improvement has been noted.”
A strong, aggressive pitcher with excellent athleticism, Sims has honed his offerings each season. His heavy fastball sits at 93-95 mph, touches 97 and possesses good arm-side run. He mixes his heater with a 77-79 mph curveball with a hard, late break and a solid-average changeup that has gained depth over the past year.
With a career walk rate of 4.2 per nine innings, Sims’ ability to throw strikes has been questioned. While many scouts project him to the bullpen—possibly as a closer—his continued control gains make him a viable option for the middle of the Atlanta rotation.
“We absolutely feel he can be a contributor for us sooner rather than later,” general manager John Coppolella said. “Based on the way he has performed, there is no reason why that would not be in a starting-pitching role.”
— Bill Ballew is a writer based in North Carolina