Lucas Sims grew up about 45 minutes from Turner Field and loved going to Braves games as a child, especially when he could watch John Smoltz pitch. The 20-year-old right-hander is rounding into a solid young hurler himself, ranked as Atlanta's top prospect and steadily moving closer to working the same mound his idol once toed.
The Braves selected Sims in the first round, No. 21 overall, of the 2012 Draft out of Brookwood High School in Snellville, Georgia. At 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds, he's working his way up the organizational ladder and has won his last three straight decisions for Class A Advanced Lynchburg, improving to 4-3 this season.
Sims, who sits at No. 51 on MLB.com's list of Top 100 Prospects, said playing for his hometown organization doesn't make his job harder. He's simply working on learning how to be a good pitcher and earn a spot in the Major Leagues.
"I don't really feel any sort of pressure," Sims said. "I think it's more fun because I'm able to play for an organization that I did root for growing up."
Sims is off to a solid, if not spectacular, start this season. He's struck out 30 and walked 15 in 48 2/3 innings, posting a 4.07 ERA while opposing batters are hitting .235 against him. This follows a terrific 2013 season with Class A Rome in the South Atlantic League, where he went 12-4 with a 2.62 ERA in 28 games, including 18 starts. He also struck out 134 batters and walked 46 in 116 2/3 innings.
But Sims understands that just because he was a first-round pick doesn't guarantee a trip to the Majors one day. He knows that would come as a result of plenty of work and study on his craft, and he's happy to oblige.
"I'm in the middle of working on some things," Sims said. "I'm learning as I go along. I'm just taking everything in stride and just trying to get better. There's always something to learn."
In fact, Lynchburg pitching coach Derrick Lewis likes the way Sims goes about trying to become a better pitcher. He said Sims takes the time to understand and master the intricacies of pitching, and that's why Lewis feels the Lawrenceville, Georgia native truly has a bright future.
"He's learning all the time, and it's steady learning, every single day," Lewis said. "He's making progress and getting better, but you can't rush the clock. You've got to go through it to understand it … and he goes about everything the right way."
All of this is helping Sims work his way toward the mound Smoltz once called home. Sims actually met his favorite pitcher once, and Smoltz gave him some simple advice: There's always someone out there working harder, so keep pushing.
"Playing professional baseball for the Braves, that was my goal as a kid," Sims said. "To be able to play for my hometown team, in the place I call home, would be [great]."
Oh, no-no: Frederick pitcher Parker Bridwell, Baltimore's No. 17 prospect, took a no-hitter into the ninth inning on May 13 against Potomac before yielding a single with one out in a 7-0 victory. Bridwell walked two, struck out eight and earned his first win of the season.
Lotta zeroes: The Salem Red Sox pitching staff took care of business in last Friday's doubleheader at Carolina, allowing six total hits without a run to sweep the Mudcats. Corey Littrell threw six shutout innings in the opener, a 3-0 victory, before Justin Haley went the distance for a 2-0 win in the nightcap.
Power time: Myrtle Beach banged out six homers in last Friday's 11-5 victory over Potomac. Joey Gallo went 4-for-4 with three round-trippers, while teammates Nick Williams, David Lyon and Zach Cone also went deep.