Last July the Cincinnati Reds traded Adam Duvall to the Atlanta Braves. In return the Reds received two pitchers – Matt Wisler and Lucas Sims. They would also acquired outfielder Preston Tucker in the deal – we would be moved back to Atlanta in September. Neither pitcher qualified for prospect lists, but both went to the minors. For Sims, he would make five starts for the Triple-A Louisville Bats in August before joining the Reds in September.
With the Reds using this offseason to acquire three starting pitchers, it left very little room on the pitching staff at the big league level. Matt Wisler, for example, didn’t have options to head to the minors and was traded to the San Diego Padres. For Lucas Sims it meant he was going to be using his final option year and heading back to Louisville to join the Bats rotation.
Unfortunately for Lucas Sims it’s the fourth consecutive year that he will be pitching in Triple-A. He’s had plenty of success at the level in the past. That includes the 2018 season where between the Reds and Braves organizations he posted a 3.11 ERA in 101.1 innings at the level with 39 walks and 115 strikeouts.
The start of his 2019 season has been more of the same. And last night in Indianapolis he put on a show. Sims dominated the Pirates Triple-A lineup that also included rehabbing big league Gregory Polanco. Sims left the game after 5.2 innings of 1-run baseball with no walks allowed and he racked up a career high 13 strikeouts.
Still, by the time his night was official, he had lowered his ERA to 3.15 on the season in 20.0 innings. His walk total is sitting at 6 – and half of those came in his first start of the year. It’s the 34 strikeouts that jump off of the page, though. The right-handed pitcher has faced 88 batters this season, giving him a strikeout rate of 38.6% through four starts. That’s the best rate among starters in the International League. Only one pitcher is remotely close to Sims, as seen in the chart below.
For Lucas Sims, it’s been the curveball that’s just been giving opposing hitters fits. The breaking ball works in the 77-81 MPH range and is a plus offering that he can locate well. With each of his four starts for the Bats this season he’s had at least 11 swinging strikes. In his 1st and 4th starts he had 11. In his 2nd and 3rd starts he racked up 19 each.
Last night he look his strikes looking total to a different level. Previously this season he had a high of 17, coming in his start on the 15th. Last night he locked up the Indians looking at strikes 29 times. Pitch data doesn’t go back for his entire minor league career – there are still a few teams in the minors that don’t do it, and a few just began to do so in the last year. But with the data we do have on Sims his previous career high at 25 in the 2016 season.
While there may not be an immediate opening in Cincinnati on the pitching staff, Lucas Sims is doing all that he can to show he’s the guy when one does open up. Whether that’s going to be in the rotation or the bullpen, he’s showing he deserves the call up to this point in the season.