Exclusive Scouting Report: AFL Rising Stars West

Lucas Sims, RH Starting Pitcher, Atlanta Braves (Age: 21 — 2015 Levels: A+ Carolina (CAR), AA Mississippi (SOU)

Sims started the game for the West squad, and as I said earlier in this piece, it was the best I’d seen him throw — including looks as an amateur, and professionally in the SAL. Sims fits the mold of a shorter, muscular and athletic right-handed starter; he’s got coat-hanger shoulders and an overall athletic look on a 6’1″, 220-pound frame. He came out rearing back and firing 94-97 four-seam fastballs with late bursting action that rode up and to his armside at the top of the zone. However, Sims still worked a lot in the middle-third of the zone with his fastball and it finished pretty straight; despite four strikeouts in two innings of work, hitters got better passes at his fastball than you’d expect with his stuff. I think mixing more running two-seam fastballs could benefit Sims and keep hitters away from his four-seamer, as would improving third and fourth pitches aside from a big fastball and good breaker. His curveball showed all the ingredients of an above-average hook, and got swings and misses in this game. It was a tight, sharp-biting downer with hard action in the 78-82 range, thrown with good velocity. His changeup sat at 84-86 and seems behind his curveball. It is a traditional circle-changeup he throws trying to maintain armspeed, but he casted the pitch at times and left very hittable mid-80s floaters over the middle of the plate.

Sims wouldn’t be the first athletic 21-year-old to bring a crude changeup close enough to the “MLB average” line by the time he reaches the league that he can operate as a starter off a fastball/curveball mix, but I don’t get the feeling this is a guy who is going to work with more than two “above-average” pitches as an ML starter.

Sims’ control and basic strike-throwing seemed fine for where he is at developmentally, but in terms of his command he’s more of a “spray the zone” type right now who is able to throw the fastball by a hitter.

Sims’ velocity and curveball were very impressive, but he also didn’t look MLB ready to me. His changeup — or lack thereof — would make it harder for him to make it through MLB lineups as a starting pitcher more than once or twice (as they’d feel out he was a two-pitch guy pretty quickly), and I don’t think he’s helped by throwing so many four-seam fastballs with his current mix of stuff. If he can’t turn a good frame and strong two-pitch mix into a starter’s profile, I can see a set-up reliever in the mold of Trevor Gott (Angels) — but I think that move is very premature at this point. Sims has a strong mix of stuff and ability to carry plus pitches into a starter’s role, and I saw the raw tools and ingredients of a guy who still could develop into a serviceable starting pitcher in the number-three or number-four starter mold.

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