Sims, Elander earn top Minor League honors

Sims, Elander earn top Minor League honors

ATLANTA -- Rookie left-hander Alex Wood appears headed for a key role on the Braves' postseason pitching staff, and in the final week of the regular season, two more of Atlanta's top picks in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft were recognized earlier this week as the top pitcher and player in the Minor League organization for the 2013 season.

Right-hander Lucas Sims, taken 21st overall in 2012, was named the organization's pitcher of the year after compiling a 12-4 record and a 2.62 ERA in 28 games for Class A Rome. Outfielder Josh Elander, the Braves' sixth-round selection that year, was named the organization's player of the year after splitting time between Rome and Advanced A Lynchburg in his first full year of professional baseball.

Sims, Atlanta's No. 1 prospect and No. 93 overall prospect, met Wood shortly after the pitchers were selected in consecutive rounds of the 2012 Draft, but he has not felt any pressure to follow Wood's fast track to the big leagues. Sims honed his fastball command in Rome and began to turn a corner midway through his campaign.

"A little bit before the All-Star break, I started to get in a groove, started getting comfortable with my routine -- running, lifting, throwing, bullpens, all that," Sims said. "All the staff that came through and helped me out with mechanics, everything just kind of started to click. I had a few rough outings here and there, but I was able to bounce back and finish with a better season than I expected."

After Elander spent 36 games of rookie ball in his natural position behind the plate, the Braves converted him to an outfielder during last year's instructional league under the direction of Minor League outfield coordinator Doug Dascenzio, and he split time between left field and designated hitter in 2013.

"Growing up, I was a catcher, but in Texas summer ball, it's 105 degrees outside and you have those doubleheaders," Elander said. "I usually catch the first one and play outfield the second, so it wasn't a completely foreign position to me. Actually, my freshman year of college, too, I played outfield, and then the next two years I caught. Obviously, catcher was my first love, but outfield may be the one I get married to."

Elander shined at the plate during both of his Minor League stops, batting .293 with 15 home runs and 93 RBIs between Rome and Lynchburg, capping the year with a .316 average and an .823 OPS in August.

Sims and Elander took in batting practice at Turner Field on Saturday afternoon along with the rest of the Braves' Minor League award winners for the 2013 season, observing the pregame preparations of this year's Triple-A Gwinnett award-winners -- player of the year Joey Terdoslavich and pitcher of the year David Hale -- who have both latched on to the big league roster this season since being called up for the first time.

"Looking back at just the little taste of pro ball that I got last year, it's really cool to think about the amount that I feel like I learned and progressed as a baseball player and even a person," Sims said. "It was a great year."

Also in attendance were the rest of the organizational award-winners: for Double-A Mississippi, pitcher Gus Schlosser and infielder Tommy La Stella; for Lynchburg, pitcher Williams Perez and outfielder Robert Hefflinger; for Rome, pitcher Shae Simmons and infielder Jose Peraza; for Rookie League Danville, pitcher Andrew Waszak and third baseman Victor Caratini; for the Gulf Coast League, pitcher Oriel Caicedo and outfielder Victor Reyes; and for the Dominican Summer League, pitcher Felix Falcon and outfielder Kelvin Estevez.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for Eric Single is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.