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.

23 Responses

  1. Ryan

    Gotta like that curve. I can see him getting a long look if they move some pieces at the deadline.

  2. doofus

    Uncle Charlie.

    Bert Blyleven’s was the best I ever saw.

  3. Northern Ky Reds

    Truthfully, I’m worried about that delivery. Looks awkward. I see elbow issue in the future.

  4. The Duke

    Most impressive thing about that curveball is that it isn’t the same pitch every time. It looks like he is able to manipulate it to add more drop or run on a pitch to pitch basis so that the hitter expects a certain kind of movement and it goes a direction. Even if they sit on the pitch correctly, it can still fool them.

    Hard to crack the Reds rotation right now though. Castillo is looking like an ace, Sonny Gray has been great so far, Mahle has had a couple bumps, but even in his “rough” starts he’s been hit early and then battled back and threw multiple quality innings after that. Wood will be coming off the DL in the next month, Roark has been a reliable mid rotation guy. Disco has flashed some, but he’s looking like the #5 right now.

    • Wes

      Even though mahle’s gave up 8 earned runs over last two starts he has a 12/0 k/walk ratio in those two games. Pretty impressive….here’s my list-

      Sims should get a shot at rotation at some point. If he can turn into a back end rotation piece that’ll be huge for reds moving forward and a great trade return. Even if you are competing and no injuries- sims can still earn a rotation spot over disco/Roark

      • The Duke

        I’d agree with that, although Roark with no options obviously isn’t going anywhere, and nor should he really as he is pitching well. A 3.60 ERA, and his FIP is actually lower at 3.09.

        Disco’s ERA is ugly and he has been killed by the long ball so far, 5 HR given up in 19.1 IP. His WHIP and K/9 is actually better than Roark’s. His last start he made it through 6 IP in only 80 pitches, so hopefully he is righting the ship.

        The real battle for a spot when Wood comes back is between Mahle and Disco, as both have options. If it were today, I think it more likely Disco get shifted to the bullpen and the Reds cut bait with Zach Duke, but Duke has shown some signs of life as well recently, and it’s probably at least a month until Wood is back so we’ll have more data points between now and then to see who goes.

        If Sims keeps looking like this though, he’s going to get a callup somewhere. I’d like to see it as a starter, but I could see him being the call if a bullpen arm is needed. 34 K in 20 IP is pretty damn impressive.

      • Dollar Bill

        Sims will be needed in the Reds rotation in 2020 . I don’t see him being dealt away.

    • Justin

      Though the return may not be something to get too excited about, the path this team is on so far certainly seems to be that of deadline sellers. If Wood gets healthy and puts together two good months, he and Roark will be gone.

      That said, the amount of affordable extensions around baseball have seemed odd. I wonder if there is an anticipated outcome of future changes that make players think that they should get what they can while they can. Maybe Wood signs something like Gray did.

      Either way, Castillo and Mahle are making me feel positive about the future and Santillan seems like he’s he’ll be added to that discussion soon enough.

      • The Duke

        Given his injury history, I’m not sure Wood is someone you want to extend beyond 1-2 years at a time. Roark is 32, so he’s not really an extension candidate either. I feel pretty good about Castillo, Gray, and Mahle for 2020, but I think the Reds should be on the lookout for another buy low candidate like Gray next year as well. Santillan is still in AA and has had BB issues to start the year (although with huge K numbers as well). I don’t know if we can assume he is ready for opening day 2020. Vlad Gut is off to his usual slow start, but he’s been nails the second half of the last two years. Lucas Sims is off to a good start in AAA and has a ton of K’s (15.3 K/9 so far) so he could be a dark horse for 2020.

      • MK

        You know Duke. I wonder if high strike out numbers is a good thing anymore with the negative compulsion to high pitch counts. Is a guy who gets two pitch groundouts more valuable than a guy who get s 5 pitch strike outs?

      • The Duke

        Hard to determine the kind of contact you give up if you are giving up a lot of contact. The numbers bear out that the guys that miss bats more often, tend to be better pitchers.

  5. SultanofSwaff

    Zero walks for Peraza this year. I’m starting Senzel at SS at Louisville if I’m in charge and playing Jose Iglesias/Dietrich the bulk of the time for now. The 2nd half ‘breakout’ from Peraza last year was apparently just a good stretch as he has regressed back to the free swinger he seems to prefer. I mean, surely he’s been given all the data that says his plate approach is unsustainable yet at-bat after at-bat he chooses to hack away early in the count. An the ‘he’s young’ argument doesn’t fly with me in the sense that he’s in his 3rd full year.

    The Reds can’t send mixed messages about competing this year while tolerating non-performance to this degree.

    • jbonireland

      Yes let’s throw a guy on the trash heap after three weeks of the season. Using that reasoning lets bench, Votto, Kemp, Puig and every other starter that isn’t hitting .200. Peraza has been jerked in and out of the lineup. Not saying there aren’t other options but you don’t give up on someone after three weeks.

      • Cguy

        Peraza has struck out 24% of his plate appearances in 2019 (with 0 walks). Last season he only K’d 11% of his PA with about a 4% walk rate. If he strikes out 24% of his next 66 PA, he’ll be riding the pine behind both Iglesias & Detrich. That’s not being thrown under the bus, that’s just baseball.

    • The Duke

      If the Reds saw Senzel as a SS, he’d be playing SS. He’s not. Now when Scooter gets back, it should be Peraza being moved to the bench as Jose Iglesias has been phenomenal with the glove and while his hitting hasn’t been great, it’s been better than most of the other Reds. No way can they can put Peraza right back to SS.

      Peraza still likely gets 3 starts a week though, one at SS, and two at 2B as Scooter is a major platoon hitter (career .823 OPS vs RHP, .638 vs LHP) and coming off of injury not the worst idea in the world to get him a little extra rest. Even last year (the best year of his career) Gennett was over 100 points better vs RHP (.882 vs .774)

      Hopefully by mid June or early July we see a lineup of:

      1. Senzel, CF
      2. Votto, 1B
      3. Suarez, 3B
      4. Gennett, 2B
      5. Puig, RF
      6. Winker, LF
      7. Iglesias, SS
      8. Barnhart, C

    • MuddyCleats

      IDK, he usually took 1st pitch strikes & was terrible about expanding zone behind n count. As long as it’s a strike, no problem w/ him being aggressive early. His approach is like playing pepper – no real attempt 2 drive the ball. IMO, opponents recognize this & R no longer giving him FB energy 2 make this approach successful??

  6. Stock

    The only reason Stephenson spent so much time in the minors is because he couldn’t throw strikes. Now that he is shouldn’t he be in the conversation for SP in 2020? I see even in 2019 if injuries occur.

    2020 rotation

    2 of Disco/Mahle/Sims

    • Cguy

      Stephenson should be in the sp conversation for the Reds in the 2nd half of this year. Contingent upon on him continuing the performance he’s shown so far this April. I see Castillo, Gray, Mahle, Stephenson, & a new guy in 2020.

      • Doug Gray

        Cguy – you don’t have to fill out the “website” portion when you leave a comment. Leave it blank if you don’t have a website, otherwise you’re just creating a dead link.

    • wes

      How do y’all gauge the value of a starter and the value of a back end bullpen piece? Reds got 3 solid options in Castillo, Mahle, and Gray along with a boat load of money to spend and several other in house candidates. Guys like Zach Britton make way more money now in a set up role than guys like Dallas “The Donkey” Kuechel and the Royals went to 2 WS in a row on the arms of the back of their bullpen. Why would you run the risk of taking Bobsteve out of a role he’s finally having success in to put him back in a role he’s never had success in at the ML level? To me; Garrett, Bobsteve, and Wandy (to a lesser extent) is a dynamic, controllable back end that fills the need for years to come. Not sure why you’d want to mess with that??

      • Fish

        “It depends” is probably the right answer. Generally a non-terrible starter has more value as they pitch more innings and have a higher chance to pitch in leverage situations. Closers/setup guys can be the exception if they’re “lights out” but that’s my understanding of it. For example, Bobsteve at 4 ERA and 150 IP is more valuable than him pitching in the 7th inning 60 innings at 2 ERA. It’s just how the math works. It’s also harder to find guys who can succeed over a larger sample. The combination of small sample-size and variability is why a lot of relievers are inconsistent. Again, closers/setup guys are generally the exception.

  7. Denis

    For us older folk, he’s freezing hitters like Greg Harris did briefly in the 80’s. Velocity for Sims?