One of the more intriguing battles in Orioles’ spring camp appears to be over.
Andrew Susac was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk today, meaning there are only two catchers left in big league camp: Caleb Joseph and Chance Sisco.
Joseph was a lock to make the team. He caught about half of the Orioles games last year (79 games, 69 starts) and is expected to get the lion’s share of playing time in 2018 with Welington Castillo leaving for the Chicago White Sox this offseason.
Sisco making the club, however, is a bit of a surprise. Or not really, depending on how you look at it.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter and executive vice president Dan Duquette both said Sisco was legitimately fighting for a roster spot this spring.
Still, he turned 23 in February, and is working on the defensive part of his game.
His offense? Well, that’s ahead of his defense. And it was ahead of most Orioles’ hitters this spring. In his first 34 plate appearances in Grapefruit League action, Sisco hit .419 with two walks and 11 strikeouts. He had two homers, five doubles, a triple and drove in 10 runs.
He can hit. And though he only batted .267 at Triple-A last year, remember he was 22 and concentrating on his defense.
Now, how do I feel about Sisco making the big league team?
Well, the Orioles said it was an open competition and he had a great spring with the bat, so they kept their word. Hat tip there.
Also, he’s a left-handed hitter, and that’s always a plus for an Orioles’ offense that usually tilts right-handed.
The real question here – the one that’s been there for months – is whether Sisco would be better served playing every day at Triple-A and working more on his defense or playing a couple days a week but learning on the job in the majors.
I could have dealt with either decision.
Because he is a catcher, and it is such a difficult position to master defensively, I probably would have leaned toward letting him play every day at Norfolk again, since the guy has only been a catcher since his senior year in high school.
The wild card here is that John Russell is considered one of the best catching instructors in baseball. Guys like Joseph and Matt Wieters swear by the Orioles’ bench coach.
And even though Sisco may not be playing a ton, he certainly could benefit from daily instruction with Russell.
Some of you will want to see Sisco be the starter out of the gate. I can’t see that happening. Joseph has established himself as a really good handler of pitchers and caller of games. He’s well ahead of Sisco defensively, and that’s the most important thing for this team right now.
Joseph is also the kind of guy that will mentor Sisco, however. That’s his nature.
The bottom line here is that I think either decision involving Sisco could have worked, The Orioles decided to push it a little. I think Sisco is mature enough to be able to handle that added responsibility.
So, I’m OK with the call – though, I, personally, would have been more conservative given his age and lack of long-time catching experience.