Many of the questions for Braves general manager John Coppolella during a Twitter Q&A on Friday afternoon centered on when the team planned to promote some of the several touted prospects in the minor leagues.
Coppolella called on fans to be patient with the team’s rebuild. But he did say that two pitchers at Triple-A Gwinnett, Sean Newcomb and Lucas Sims, are ready to join the big-league club if there is a need.
“I think they are an injury or a trade away, and that’s exciting for us,” Coppolella wrote in response to a question about a timetable for the young pitchers at Gwinnett.
Newcomb, 23, began this season with Gwinnett after making 27 starts at Double-A Mississippi in 2016. In eight starts for Gwinnett the left-hander has posted a 2.74 ERA over 42 2/3 innings with 52 strikeouts and 21 walks.
The Angels selected Newcomb with the No. 15 pick in the 2014 draft, and the Braves acquired him as part of the Andrelton Simmons trade in November 2015. Before this season Baseball America ranked Newcomb as the No. 78 prospect in baseball. He ranked No. 24 before last year.
Sims, 23, also began this season with Gwinnett after pitching for Mississippi in 2016. In seven starts this year he’s posted a 2.16 ERA over 41 2/3 innings with 42 strikeouts and nine walks.
The Braves selected Sims with the No. 21 pick in the 2012 draft. Sims began the 2016 season at Mississippi, earned a promotion to Gwinnett, but then returned to Mississippi after struggling over 11 starts.
“Throwing more strikes, (change-up) has really improved, better fastball command,” Coppolella responded in a question about how Sims has improved this season. “Still young (with) big upside.”
Sims and Newcomb are among the Braves’ top-ranked prospects. The organization’s farm system has improved from one of the worst to one of the best as the Braves swapped several veterans for prospects and draft picks over the past two years.
During his Q&A, Coppolella mentioned the improved farm system in response to a user who asked him why he traded most of the prospects acquired by his predecessor, Frank Wren. The questioner also criticized Coppolella for adding veteran pitchers and “blocking” prospects from joining the big-league club.
“Signing veteran pitchers allows young pitching prospects like Sims to concentrate on what they are doing in the minors (and) not worry about (the majors),” Coppolella responded.