Coming into 2015, Lucas Sims and Rio Ruiz were unanimous top 10 prospects in the Braves’ farm system. Personally, I had Lucas Sims ranked 2nd overall and Ruiz came in 8th overall. Rough 2015 campaigns from both players have dropped their stock quite a bit. However, moves have been made, the Braves drafted well and guys have stepped it up. When it’s all said and done, Sims came in 9th on our most recent prospect list, and Ruiz fell all the way down to 21st overall. It’s been that ugly, but with all of that being said, their potential is just still as high. Their performance for AA Mississippi this past week has to be recognized, and it could a huge turn for two guys who are supposed to be big leaguers for us one day.
Lucas Sims has a lot of work to do. He was one of the highest ranked prospects in our system before we started the rebuild, and has found himself fall down prospect lists everywhere. He has been ranked as high as the 54th best prospect in baseball by BaseballProspectus.com (pre-2015). Sims is still a nice prospect in his own right, but his struggles over the past couple seasons are making farm enthusiasts wary, and he has seemingly gotten lost in our plethora of arms. Many thought the first rounder could be our next ace with his high strikeout numbers, but then 2014 came around. Sims was coming off an incredible 2013 campaign for low-A Rome, compiling a 2.62 ERA over 28 appearances (18 starts). He also struck out an impressive 10.3 batters per 9 innings. High-A ball was different for Sims, however, and his stuff had trouble catching up at the next level. His K/9 rate fell to 6.2, by far the lowest of his career. He put together an unspectacular 4.20 ERA, and the organization felt that he should repeat A+ ball the following season. 2015 has been a nightmare for Sims. Here he is repeating A+ ball, yet he’s struggling. Though he saw his strikeout numbers rise once again, he started having issues with walking batters. On top of that, Sims was injured in the Carolina Mudcats’ bus crash earlier in the season, causing him to miss time. Despite his struggles in A+ ball, the team brass still liked the way he was throwing and expressed a vote in confidence in Sims, deciding to promote him to AA Mississippi. While he is most definitely still experiencing difficulty with his command, Sims’ strikeout numbers are peaking and he is coming off three of the best outings he has had in quite a while. On August 11th, Sims gave up just 4 hits and a lone earned run to go along 6 strikeouts in 6 innings pitched against the Biloxi Shuckers. He followed that performance by tossing 5.1 innings of one hit baseball against the Birmingham Barons. On Sunday, Sims tossed 10 strikeouts over 6 innings against the Pensacola Blue Wahoos, giving up just one earned run on three hits. It’s a small sample size, yet an encouraging sign for Sims, who finally seems to have luck in his favor for a change.
Another guy who has failed to live up to high expectations this season is Rio Ruiz. Acquired in the Evan Gattis trade, Ruiz was widely regarded as the Braves’ future at the hot corner. He had just come off a nice season of A+ ball in the Astros organization, a year in which he hit .293 with 11 homers and 77 RBI. The hype surrounding this kid was big, and it looked like we got a pretty handsome package for El Oso Blanco. However, Ruiz has gotten off to a slow start in the Braves organization, struggling to adapt to AA. Ruiz has hit just .224 on the year for AA Mississippi, and regardless of his performance down the stretch he will likely have to repeat the level next season. However, his bat has heated up here recently. While Ruiz was a consistent hitter during his tenure with the Astros’ organization, he has been very streaky in 2015. As of now, Ruiz is on an 8-game hitting streak in which he has hit .333. Ruiz has a lot of catching up to do, but this is a very encouraging sign for a guy who’s supposed to be a big time bat for us one day.
Prospects struggle at times and it can be easy to write them off quickly, but patience is virtue with Sims and Ruiz. AA can be the biggest jump for some players, and they are both just 21 years old. Both of these guys could end up being busts, but they still have the potential to be on the big league club at some point in 2016. It’s really up to their performance on the field, and hopefully the past week is evidence of an upward trend in their development.