First-rounder Lucas Sims has taken many things away from his first year in the Carolina League. Things like sequencing pitches, remembering opposing hitters' strengths and learning the importance of keeping the ball away from the barrel of the bat.
Atlanta's No. 2 prospect utilized those tools while allowing two hits and striking out four batters over six scoreless innings in Class A Advanced Lynchburg's 2-1 win over host Myrtle Beach at TicketReturn.com Field on Sunday evening.
With Frederick losing both games of a doubleheader Saturday, Lynchburg's win clinched the team a postseason berth for the third straight season.
"I thought it went pretty well," said Sims, who issued four walks and hit one batter in lowering his ERA to 4.19. "Walked a few more people than I would have liked, but for the most part, I thought it went well. I felt like I started getting into a groove as I went on. Fastball, I was locating it for the most part where I wanted to and I executed a couple good changeups and I threw some good breaking balls. Pretty much everything was working for me."
Sims (8-11) stranded runners at the corners in the first inning and on first and second base in the second. He induced an inning-ending double play to work around consecutive leadoff walks to start the third, then retired nine of the final 10 batters he faced to complete his night.
The only baserunner to reach against Sims after the third was Ryan Cordell, who laced a one-out triple to right field with one out in the sixth to snap a string of eight straight outs.
"For the most part, I was trying to be a little too fine instead of just going on the attack," Sims said. "I got a little too passive and that is not my style, but it lit a fire. I told myself to figure it out."
It marked just the second time Sims has pitched at least six innings and yielded two or fewer hits. He worked seven hitless innings in Wilmington on June 26.
Selected by the Braves 21st overall in the 2012 Draft out of Brookwood High School in Snellville, Georgia, the 20-year-old has had to make adjustments over the course of the past six months after having a breakout year in 2013.
He went 12-4 with a 2.62 ERA in 28 South Atlantic League games, including 18 starts, for Class A Rome, but he has seen his strikeout totals drop and his walks increase after moving up a level and being thrust into a full-time starter role.
Ranked 66th among MLB.com's Top 100 prospects, the 6-foot-2 hurler continues to learn in every outing.
"You really learn the importance of locating your fastball," Sims said of the challenges of moving up a league. "When you leave balls over the plate in certain counts, guys will take advantage of it. I've learned the importance of being able to throw in without leaving it over the plate and being able to bury my curveball when I need to.
"You notice the difference in the hitters. There are some quality hitters here. There are not so many free hitters, so you really have to be around the zone or else you're going to pay."
Now in his fourth year of pro ball, Sims went to Kroger grocery store to pick up a notepad before the season to keep notes on every hitter he faces. And while he hasn't been as diligent about keeping up to date with his in-game observations as he would have liked, he's making it a goal this offseason to catch up on his own scouting reports ahead of Spring Training.
"The biggest thing for me is learning how to pitch," said Sims, who started the year as the youngest player in the Carolina League. "I feel like I'm at the level where you can't just rely on your stuff. You have to be prepared and remember the sequences you used to get hitters out and what their strengths and weaknesses are. I'm making strides forward, but I'm still learning every day.
"After a while, you start to remember hitters because there are only eight teams so you see them a lot. Next year, I'll definitely have a better written log, whether on an iPad or in a book or something. Numbers are something I don't look at because they don't tell you everything by looking at them how successful the season has been. I feel like I've come a long way as a pitcher and a person and a player. I didn't have all the success I wanted, but it has made me a better pitcher. I'm proud aboout how the season has gone."
Lynchburg's David Peterson surrendered a run on three hits and a walk while striking out two batters over the final three innings to earn his second Carolina League save of the year.
Myrtle Beach starter Luis Parra (10-7) gave up two runs on three hits over 2 2/3 innings. He struck out two and walked one.