Catching Up with the Rome Braves

While the Braves’ farm system doesn’t rank highly among evaluators, there are certain patches of talent scattered throughout the organization. One cluster resides in Rome. 2012 first-round pick Lucas Sims, Jose Peraza, Carlos Franco, and a few other interesting prospects make up a team that is currently 36-29. They headed to Lexington for a three-game series, so I headed to Lexington to watch Rome and take another look at the Legends.

Prospects to Watch

Lucas Sims, RHP – Last year’s first round pick was impressive. Mike Newman covered him a little earlier this season, but I wanted to take a look for myself. Sims is a sturdy young man at six-feet-one-inch and 200 pounds, but there’s little projection left in the frame unless he grows a few more inches. That being  said, Sims doesn’t necessarily need much physical projection when his fastball already sits in the 90 mph-to-93 mph range with the ability to hit 94 and 95 mph when he reaches back for a little extra. The pitch has a little arm-side run to it, but if he continues to pitch upstairs with it so much, he may eventually run into trouble. In addition to the fastball, Sims throws two different breaking pitches. One is a true curveball that he throws anywhere from 74 mph to 77 mph, but he adds a harder one in the low-80s with more horizontal movement that probably fits best under the description of a slurve. The true curveball is the better pitch, and as Mike noted, it has swing-and-miss potential, though his command of it is still below-average as one might expect from a 19-year old. Moving on to the change-up, the pitch itself is more of a straight change-up, but he did an excellent job maintaining arm speed through the pitch, eliciting some off-balance swings and weak contact. I was very impressed with the young prospect, and it was good to see a no-walk performance from a young man who has given up a few free passes this season. He was using a fluid delivery and maintaining a direct path to the plate. Sims used the fastball to get ahead, and while he’ll need to throw his other pitches for strikes as he moves up, he’s off to a good start.

Jose Peraza, SS – There seem to be quite a few good shortstops in the South Atlantic League this season, and Peraza is another. The main tool that sticks out for Peraza is his speed – getting a few 3.9 times down the first-base line from the right side – and he even stole second base on a pitch-out. The rest of Peraza’s game revolves around the speed tool. Defensively, Peraza can cover quite a bit of ground, but he’s still raw. He booted a rather routine grounder and would make a throwing error in a later game, but he was able to make a few excellent plays on balls others wouldn’t have. Offensively, Peraza was a mess for most of the series. He tried to lay down a bunt four times in the three-game set, but he wasn’t able to get any of them down. It can be a weapon for him because of his speed, but he’ll need to get it down with more frequency. His swing is a bit long, and at five-feet-eleven-inches (maybe) and 170 pounds, he doesn’t have any power or probably project to have much down the line. Peraza is also an aggressive hitter, so he may very well end up as an empty batting average hitter. And as of this viewing, I’m not sure the batting average will be that good. While Peraza certainly has his weaknesses, he is only 19 and can play shortstop. There’s some potential there, but he certainly has some work to do.

Possible Role Players

Williams Perez, RHP – Perez’s curveball was unhittable Tuesday night – getting 9 swings-and-misses and 7 strikeouts in 4 innings – as it sat in the high-70s with good vertical movement. His fastball started out 90 mph-to-92 mph with the ability to touch 94 a couple times, but it was 88 mph-to-89 mph by the 4th inning after which he was removed. Perez didn’t show a third pitch, but he didn’t need it anyway. He’s not a big guy, but with two solid pitches, he might end up as a nice bullpen arm down the road.

Carlos Franco, 3B – Franco was on-and-off in this series. On the one hand, he made some really nice defensive plays with the glove, but he also made two throwing errors on throws that weren’t close. If he cleans that up, however, he could be an excellent defender at the hot corner. His swing was geared for contact, but like just about every other prospect in this series, he couldn’t recognize and adjust to off-speed and/or breaking pitches. That limited his in-game power to basically nil, but he has a muscular frame with room to grow and could add power as he develops. There are some tools here, but he looked lost at the plate.

Shae Simmons, RHP – When Simmons came to the mound, my initial thought was that he physically resembled Craig Kimbrel. His fastball wasn’t quite as good, but it sat in the 94 mph-to-96 mph range and gave the Legends fits. Simmons adds a slider, but it wasn’t good in this outing. He couldn’t keep it out of the dirt with the notable exception of one pitch that nailed the batter. Simmons has struck out 40% of batters so far, and he has a big fastball. But he’ll need to sharpen the slider.

Josh Elander, OF – Drafted as a catcher, Elander is now an outfielder, at least in name. He’s not bad at catching the ball, but he’s a slow runner, which one would expect with having caught. The bat, however, is his calling card. The right-handed hitter has plenty of pop in the swing, crushing a pitch over the high right field fence for a home run and hitting a few other pitches quite deep. I do worry about the hit tool as he drifts forward from the start and had some trouble adjusting to off-speed stuff. He can crush a fastball, though.

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