The Atlanta Braves have long had a great reputation for identifying and developing starting pitching talent. Right now, their big league squad boasts home-grown products such as Kris Medlen, Julio Teheran, Mike Minor, Alex Wood and Brandon Beachy.
Though a ways from the Majors, top Atlanta prospect Lucas Sims seems to be another feather in the proverbial cap for the organization.
The Braves' top Draft choice in 2012 -- 21st overall -- made possibly his best start yet as a professional Thursday, holding Class A Savannah to just one hit and two walks while striking out nine over seven innings in Rome's 4-3 victory.
Sims (9-4) has hit a stride as the season draws to a close, posting back-to-back starts of seven innings -- his longest outings of the year.
"Going seven innings has been one of my goals all year, and I finally got to that the last start. There was a couple of runs that scored [in that start], so my next goal for this outing was to go seven with no runs and I got that," he noted. "A lot of it's just been throwing strikes, getting quicker outs and not getting as deep into counts, that's a big thing too. I've gone and kept my pitch count low."
The 19-year-old Georgia native, continuing the Braves tradition of cultivating local talent, has won his last five starts. After he stumbled a bit in the early part of the year, posting a 6.35 ERA in April across six starts that mostly consisted of one and two-inning efforts, he's been mostly unhittable since.
Sims had a 1.37 ERA in May and a 2.39 ERA in June. He has posted a 1.40 mark in three starts in August.
For the season, he's notched a 2.83 ERA overall in 101 2/3 innings, striking out 114 and walking 41.
"Once I got my routine kind of set, I know what I'm doing now for the most part. There's still always something to learn but, you know, I feel good, my body still feels good for the home stretch. I'm just trying to finish off strong, trying to learn something new each start, each day," he said. "I fel like I've been able to throw a lot more strikes, my command feels a lot better [this season]. Mechanically I'm sound, and right now, I'm just feeling good on the mound. The ball's starting to do what I want it to."
Last year, in a brief taste of pro ball, he had a 3.71 ERA in 34 innings between the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Braves and Rookie-level Danville. He struck out 39 and walked 14 in 34 frames.
Sims feels jumping from high school to the pros and putting himself under the tutelage of the Atlanta system as such a young pitcher was the best thing for his development.
"Getting out early, starting early and getting as much experience as I can, that was important for me," he said. "I was excited to get out here and start my career. We have a great coaching staff and the Braves, they're a class act about it. It's top notch, the instruction I've got and the amount of knowledge I've gotten from this organization."
Kyle Wren, Eric Garcia, Carlos Fracno and Joey Meneses each drove in a run to give Rome just enough offense to pull out the win.