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August 3, 2017

Transaction Analysis

The Sims: Lucas

by John Eshleman and Martin Alonso

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National League

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Acquired IF-R Adam Rosales from Oakland Athletics in exchange for RHP Jeferson Mejia. [7/31]

Signed IF/OF-S Emilio Bonifacio to a minor-league contract. [7/31]

Arizona keeps improving its roster in an attempt to build a playoff-caliber team. Adding a utility man like Rosales makes sense, from a philosophical standpoint, but on paper he doesn’t add much beyond providing depth to a club fighting for a Wild Card spot. He hits like a utility infielder (.234/.273/.346 this season, .228/.295/.364 career) and his age has seen his defense—once his only real asset—also take a sharp decline (-1.3 FRAA).

But given that the Diamondbacks will be without Chris Owings and Ketel Marte for the immediate future, a move for Rosales makes sense to provide some positional relief. Once Owings and Marte make it back to the club, he will allow the starters to rest every once in a while as they continue their push for October baseball. After that, Rosales may continue his lending his services as a bench bat on another club.

It's been nearly two months since we last heard from Bonifacio who was designated for assignment by the Braves after hitting a deplorable .132/.150/.211 in 44 plate appearances. Now, looking to add depth at the minor-league level, Arizona has nabbed him in hopes that seeing enough low-level pitching will allow Bonifacio to stay fresh in case some mishap impacts the major-league roster.

The chances of seeing Bonifacio don a major-league uniform once again seem slim, as he neither has the bat, speed, nor defensive capability to man an outfield position within hitter-friendly Chase Field. However, if Bonifacio can figure it out once more for a final push, Arizona could use a utility infield/outfielder to help them in their playoff bid. —Martin Alonso

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Recalled RHP Lucas Sims from Triple-A Gwinnett. [8/1]

The 2012 first-rounder has had an up-and-down minor-league career that saw his prospect status vacillate from mid-rotation starter to back-ender, to leverage reliever to middle reliever/swingman. The consensus on Sims coming into 2017 was: his fastball (94-96 mph) is too straight, his command too inconsistent, and his third pitch too rough to make it in a rotation. So while he’s struck out over a batter an inning, he’s also walked a batter every other inning.

It would appear that the Braves were listening, as the 2017 version of Sims has featured various diversions from the past. In May, he showed three pitches (FB-CB-CH). Instead of that straight four-seamer, he had a 90-93 two-seamer with good arm-side command (less so glove-side) and enough run to keep it off Triple-A barrels. At its best it could play as average, but when the command slipped and he was up, he was hit hard.

More recently, according to Trackman, Sims is mixing the two fastballs more 50/50. He’s also tinkered with a slider that tends to blend with another new pitch (since May at least), an 87-89 mph cutter. So, if you’re counting, that’s three fastballs. As his cutter usage has increased, his show-me changeup has been relegated to rarer appearances (this is good), and he rounds out this repertoire with his best pitch—a late breaking curve that disappears and elicits frequent chases out of the zone (and knee buckling in the zone).

I like what the Braves have done to try to keep Sims in the rotation. Instead of sending him to the pen in 2017, they have asked him to rework his repertoire to have a shot at retaining more value. Still, I don’t think either fastball is any better than average, which could lead major-league hitters to key on the curveball. The cutter, which I haven’t seen, becomes vital for a rotation future, and the recent numbers at Triple-A suggest he’s at least getting it done against the 40-man flotsam.

Despite all the tweaks, there are too many concerns for me to project Sims as a future starter, especially with a short and stiff arm action and high-effort delivery, the main culprit of his inconsistent command. As is, the realistic future role is middle relief/swingman (Role 4), mixing his fastballs to keep hitters off balance and looking for put-aways with the curve. I’ll hold out hope that the combo of the four-seam, two-seam, and curve could tick up in the pen, or the cutter gives him another option, landing Sims in a seventh-inning role, his current realistic ceiling from my vantage point. —John Eshleman

John Eshleman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see John's other articles. You can contact John by clicking here

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Flu-Like Symptoms: The... (08/03)
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