This week, after speaking with Kyle Kubitza, Jason Hursh, and Alec Grosser in previous weeks, we're excited to bring you an interview with the Braves' top pitching prospect, Lucas Sims. Sims, a 20-year-old right-hander who was the Braves' first-round draft choice in the 2012 Draft, just finished a season pitching for the high-A Lynchburg Hillcats. Sims got off to a rough start on the season, posting a 5.00 ERA in the first half of the season, but rebounded nicely in the second half, finishing with a 3.51 ERA and 69 strikeouts in 84.2 innings pitched. Sims was one of the youngest players in the Carolina League, and it showed at times. After dominating with Rome in 2013, Sims' strikeout numbers took a step back this season, and he finished with a 4.56 FIP after posting a 3.09 FIP in 2013. Nevertheless, Sims is still likely the best prospect in the Braves' system at the present time, and there's a lot to be excited about with him.
I caught up with Lucas after the end of the season, and here's what he had to say.
Talking Chop: After dominating low-A ball in 2013, the Carolina League presented a bigger challenge for you this season. What's your biggest takeaway from the 2014 season?
Lucas Sims: My biggest takeaway would have to be learning how to get hitters out without my best stuff. It taught me a lot about pitching and taught me a lot about myself.
TC: After a rough first half with the Hillcats, you turned things around and started striking out more hitters and pitching better in the second half. What do you attribute this turnaround to?
LS: I had some mechanical issues that I was trying to iron out. I felt like I was learning about pitching, but mechanically I wasn't able to execute. It was frustrating but looking back at it, it helped me learn a lot.
TC: You pitched 40 more innings in 2014 than you did in 2013, finishing with 156.2 innings of work on the mound. Physically, how did your arm and body hold up with the toll of more innings?
LS: I felt pretty good throughout the season. You definitely learn to listen to your body and your arm. Also you begin to realize how important nutrition and rest is for your body.
TC: What do you feel your biggest strengths are on the mound?
LS: I've always felt like my competitive nature has been my biggest strength on the mound.
TC: Where do you feel like you need to improve as a pitcher?
LS: There is always something that I can improve on. I really want to continue to improve command and learn more about how to pitch.
TC: You mentioned that working on repeating your mechanics consistently was something that you were working on this season; is this still a point of focus for you?
LS: It's not something that I necessarily worry about anymore. I feel like I made some big steps forward during instructs this year and I feel very comfortable on the mound with all my pitches.
TC: Is there anyone in the Braves organization who has served as a mentor to you or helped you particularly in your time in the system?
LS: I honestly can't just name one person that has helped me within the Braves because there has been so many, players and coaching staff.
TC: What are your goals for the offseason and the 2015 season?
LS: My goals are to get my body and mind ready for a full, productive, healthy 2015 season.
Sims has one of the highest ceilings in Atlanta's system, and will look to improve upon his 2014 campaign next season. In all likelihood, he'll begin the season in double-A at Mississippi as one of the youngest players in the Southern League. Sims has a potential to have three above-average to plus pitches, and guys with that sort of potential don't grow on trees. It's always important to not just "scout the stat line," and Sims' 2014 season is a very good example of this. Despite less than stellar numbers and peripherals, reports on Sims' stuff were still positive, and he still has the ceiling of being a front-to-mid rotation starter in a big league rotation. He seems to have learned a lot in 2014, and has made some significant strides mechanically, so I expect him to take a step forward in 2015. He and Tyrell Jenkins will form a formidable 1-2 punch at the front of Mississippi's rotation, and it'll be exciting to see how they perform.
Stay tuned next week for the next entry in our prospect interview series!