Five years can feel like forever, especially if you’re waiting to open a shiny new toy like the Atlanta Braves must have felt awaiting Lucas Sims‘ debut.
Five years after drafting the 18-year-old right-hander from nearby Snellville, Georgia, with the 21st overall pick in the first round of the 2012 amateur draft, the waiting was over. Sims impressed over seven innings in his first MLB game, a 3-2 Braves loss against the NL-best Los Angeles Dodgers.
Sims tossed seven innings of quality-start ball, allowing three earned runs on six hits, striking out three hitters and walking none – the final figure in that line being perhaps the most impressive.
“Crafty” is a baseball adjective often followed by “veteran” and frequently attributed to historically good or memorable pitchers (see Greg Maddux), and it’s too early in Sims’ career for that kind of talk, but the young pitcher definitely brought his art supplies to tonight’s game.
His stuff was good and his pitches mostly located, though he hit a batter and some of his mistakes were hit quite hard, including a two-out homer by Home Run Derby veteran Cody Bellinger. He’s hit 29 of those, however, and few pitchers today are pitching quality starts against the Dodgers.
A big pitcher – listed at 6’2” and 220 lbs. – Sims also showed some agility in the field, picking off Joc Pederson at first base after the HBP and then snagging a screaming liner from Logan Forsythe in back-to-back plays in the fourth inning. Sims exhibited a nice pick-off move several times in the game, nearly catching another Dodgers baserunner at second base later in the game.
Braves fans of the next decade may mark Tuesday’s game as the beginning of the team’s new era, with the arrival of Sims and fellow prospect Ozzie Albies, both promoted from Triple-A and inserted into the starting lineup before Tuesday night’s game for their debuts.
Many tuning in or in attendance may have done so to welcome Albies. Sims, by contrast, is just one in a crush of talented pitchers waiting in the minor league wings for a regular Atlanta rotation spot, so it’s easy to understand getting more excited for a showcase offensive talent.
There’s a glut of prospects in the Braves system competing for a handful of rotation spots. Sean Newcomb has already been promoted to the big-league club for a month, and they can’t and won’t all crack the Braves roster at once, or at least not together. But collecting pitching depth as the Braves have, is justified by the success of even a few of the crop.
But Sims is the first of the current wave of homegrown pitching talent (Wisler, Blair and Newcomb were all trade acquisitions) to make his debut this season and joins Julio Teheran as the only homegrown starters in the rotation.
Should Sims continue his success, he could bring some immediate stability to what has been a fluid Braves rotation of late after the departures of Bartolo Colon and Jaime Garcia and lackluster guest appearances by Matt Wisler and Aaron Blair. Seeing his development successfully culminate after five years in the Braves system also portends the next wave of talented, homegrown arms that may soon join them on the Atlanta mound.
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