Tournaments : : Story
Monday, July 9, 2018

TE 17u's Sims comes out firing

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Landon Sims (Perfect Game)

FORT MYERS, Fla. – Based on what he has already accomplished since becoming a part of the Perfect Game tournament scene in June of 2014, there wasn’t any need for Landon Sims to announce his arrival at the PG 17u BCS National Championship here Monday morning in such a loud manner.

Sims, from Cumming, Ga., was called on to start Team Elite 17u Prime’s tournament opener on one of the back, practice fields at the jetBlue Park Player Development Complex and was ready to get after it. He had last pitched in a PG national championship environment last Wednesday, July 4, at the PG 17u WWBA National Championship at PG Park-LakePoint in Emerson, Ga.

The adrenaline was certainly rushing through his veins, and if that is not to be believed it would probably be prudent to ask one of the six Team Axis Minutemen batters that stepped in against Sims Monday morning of their opinion.

Raring back and delivering fastballs that averaged right around 90 mph and topped-out at 93 while mixing in 74-76 mph curveballs, Sims needed only 33 pitches to strikeout all six of the would-be Minutemen hitters he faced in two short innings of work. It was efficiency personified.

“I’m usually confident when I’m on the mound,” he said not long after the Elite 17u Prime had sneaked past the Minutemen, 1-0, by scoring a run in the bottom of the seventh. “I just go out there and try to throw strikes and see what I can do.”

Throwing strikes and seeing what he can do has become commonplace for Sims over the past several years, but perhaps more-so this summer while settling into a new role as a dominant right-handed pitcher.

Anyone viewing Sims’ PG Player Profile Page might be surprised to see that he is listed as a primary outfielder. And, in fact, he is ranked the No. 17 class-of-2019 outfield prospect nationally and the No. 1 2019 outfield prospect in Georgia. That has changed, according to Sims.

“I’m definitely a primary pitcher, for sure,” Sims told PG Monday, “but I definitely hit when I want to; that’s still fun to do.”

Winder, Ga.-based Team Elite 17u Prime is in Southwest Florida this week after spending last week in North Georgia competing at the PG 17u WWBA National Championship. It didn’t reach the playoffs after finishing 5-1-1 in pool-play.

That, of course, is not a bad showing at the biggest 17u national championship tournament in the country, but not reaching bracket-play is unacceptable for this team.

“I think it puts a little bit of a chip of our shoulder to want to do better this week,” Sims said. “We didn’t do what we wanted to do last week but it’s baseball and stuff happens. We can come out here this week and get business done and win the whole thing; that’s the goal.”

As for himself, Sims was pretty darn good last week up in the north Atlanta suburbs. He made two pitching appearances and worked 6 2/3 innings, during which he gave up only one hit without allowing a run while striking out 12 and walking two.

Landon Sims is a 6-foot-2, 205-pound right-hander who will be a senior at Cummins’ South Forsyth High School in the fall and has committed to Mississippi State. PG ranks him as the No. 72 overall prospect in his class but now that he has solidified himself as one of the top right-handers in that class, that number is likely to be lower the next time the rankings are updated.

Sims has been playing with the Brad Bouras-led Team Elite Baseball organization since he was 13-years-old and has been named to 10 PG all-tournament teams while wearing a Team Elite jersey; he was with this TE 17u Prime team that won the championship at the PG WWBA 17u PG-East Cobb Invitational up in Georgia early last month.

“It really means something to wear the ‘TE’ across your chest; people expect something when you walk out on the field,” Sims said. “You’ve got to live up to that expectation and go out and get stuff done.”

Sims was playing a year behind all the great class of 2018 prospects that were on last year’s Team Elite 17u Prime team that finished No. 5 in PG’s 2017 Final 17u Travel Team National Rankings. That roster included Perfect Game All-Americans Will Banfield, Ethan Hankins, John Malcom, Parker Meadows and Kumar Rocker.

Hankins was a first-round comp pick in June’s MLB Amateur Draft, Banfield and Meadows both went in the second round and Rocker was a 38th-round pick. Another Team Elite prospect who was not a PGAA, Ryder Green, was a third-round selection.

“We looked up to them and we had some big shoes to fill this year,” Sims said. “But, as a team this year, I think we want to make a name for ourselves and not be referred to as the team from last year and get stuff done our own.”

The official Team Elite 17u Prime roster submitted the PG 17u BCS National Championship lists 34 prospects but, of course, not all of them here. Twenty-six of the 34 have committed to NCAA Division I schools, most residing in the powerhouse Southeastern and the Atlantic Coast conferences.

Among the most prominent in relation to PG’s class of 2019 national top prospect rankings are No. 14 right-hander Mack Anglin (Clemson), No. 19 middle-infielder Nasim Nunez (Clemson) and No. 99 outfielder Tyler Williams; Nunez is among the players who aren’t here this week.

“It definitely makes everyone better, just playing around the guys and listening to what they have to say,” Sims said. “I like listening to hitters talk. I learn a lot from them and I like looking at all the hitters take their hacks; it definitely makes me better.”

Even with his extensive PG WWBA and PG BCS tournament experience, Sims had never attended a PG showcase before being invited to the granddaddy of them all, the PG National, held last month at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla.

He garnered a lot of attention at the heavily scouted event, showing a fastball that sat 89-93 mph, an 82-mph slider and an 81-mph changeup. He also ran a personal best 6.75-second 60-yard dash.

“It was very humbling being there because every single person was throwing hard, they were throwing good, they were swinging the bat good,” Sims said. “I think it’s good to get around those guys because it’s a little bit of a reality check; it’s fun to watch guys like that play, too.”

A PG scout blog from the game Sims pitched at the National read like Sims certainly belong there with the best-of-the-best from his high school graduating class”

“(Sims) missed bats with (his pitches) … and has tremendous arm strength in his 6-foot-2, 205-pound frame. The right-hander throws relatively easy with a fastball and a slider with some bite. The Mississippi State (commit) used the two-pitch combination and flash of a straight changeup to strikeout four in two innings.”

The 60-yard dash times at this year’s National were other-worldly with 27 athletes covering the distance in 6.59-seconds or faster. A record-setting clocking of 6.13-seconds was posted by Mississippi prospect Jerrion Ealy and seven others got it done in 6.33-seconds or better; Sims was impressed.

“On the … video that is out there, when Jerrion Ealy ran his 60 they actually put me on the video with my hands over my head and my mouth open because I was surprised at how fast he was running; it looked like he was floating,” Sims said. “It’s fun to watch that stuff.”

Sims enjoyed a phenomenal junior season at South Forsyth HS in Cumming, Ga., this spring. He won 10 games, posted a 0.90 ERA and allowed only 34 hits while striking out 80 batters in 62 innings, and threw a fastball that was gunned at 95 mph early in the spring.

The War Eagles finished 28-8 after a loss in the second-round of the Georgia Class 7A state playoffs and after three years of playing on the varsity for a school that competes in Georgia Class 7A, Sims knows there is never a breather.

“You can’t go out there and expect that you’re going to beat anybody,” he said. “Everybody has at least one D-I pitcher – Ethan Hankins was in our region this year – and I think every team had at least two D-I arms on their pitching staff this year. It becomes a game of who is going to make the least amount of mistakes."

Sims made his commitment to Mississippi State as a high school sophomore in December 2016, and he told PG on Monday that the program just had a feel about it that was different from some of the other schools he had visited.

When asked if there has been anyone who has had the biggest impact on his baseball career, he mentioned both his parents, Candi and Brannon Sims. Landon Sims is also a standout football player – he plans to play his senior season this fall – and he said both parents have supported him every step of the way.

“My dad, he’s always pushed me in baseball and football but especially in baseball,” Landon said. “He’s always asking me if I want to go hit, if I want to go throw and I don’t know how many people can say that about their dad; it’s really special for him to do that.”

Next Wednesday, July 18, the Perfect Game All-American Classic Selection Show will air on the MLB Network as part of the festivities surrounding the MLB All-Star Game in Washington, D.C.

Fifty-two top prep prospects from the class of 2019 will hear their names called and will be extended invitations to perform at the 16th annual PGAAC on Sunday, Aug. 12, at Petco Park in San Diego. Nothing is official but based on summer of ’18 performances it wouldn’t be far-fetched to at least think Sims’ name is under consideration.

“It (would) really mean a lot (with) all the hard work and the dedication my parents put towards me and my baseball career,” he said.  “… I’ve been watching the game on TV since I was 13 (years old) so it (would) be a very special moment for me and my family.”

Sims called last week’s performance at the PG 17u WWBA a “wakeup call” and even identified the Team Elite 17u Prime’s close-call against the Minutemen in much the same way (they beat the East Coast Sandhogs 17u, 8-0, later in the day).

“We’ve got to go out there and do what we can do and grab what want; we’re going to have to work hard for it,” he concluded. “I’m never going to settle; I’m always going to … try to work harder than everybody else. I’ve been pleased with the way this summer has gone so far … but definitely winning this tournament would put a cap on the summer and make it special.”

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