Thoughts on Chance Sisco making the Orioles - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Dan Connolly

Thoughts on Chance Sisco making the Orioles

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

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.

43 Comments

43 Comments

  1. TheFatMan

    March 23, 2018 at 2:03 pm

    I am okay with it, but think his long term success may have been better served by catching everyday at AAA. I suppose this was a reward for his awesome spring hitting . He may get more opportunities than we expect early on, including a few as the lefty DH. If the bat stays hot, he will stay as long as the defense is not so poor that he can’t be behind the plate on a regular basis. If the bat cools off rapidly, or the league adjusts and he has trouble catching back up, look for Susac or Wynn to get called up. Regardless, I can’t wait until next Thursday!

    • Dan Connolly

      March 23, 2018 at 3:53 pm

      He really went on a tear this spring.

  2. Birdman

    March 23, 2018 at 2:27 pm

    If the Orioles were in a “rebuilding” mode, it would make sense to give Sisco more time to develop his defensive skills in the minors. But with the signing of Cobb, its clear that the O’s are making a push for the post-season this year, so I think its tough to keep a guy with Sisco’s offensive ability off the roster.

    I have a lot of respect for Joseph, especially how he persevered through 6 minor league seasons. But the bottom line is that he’s a .225 career hitter, with limited power. Unless Sisco is really terrible defensively, I would not be surprised to see him displace Joseph as the #1 catcher before the season is over.

    • Dan Connolly

      March 23, 2018 at 3:55 pm

      I think Sisco is still learning defensively. I don’t think terrible, just needs to improve on some of the nuances. But Joseph has emerged as a good one. A swap could happen but Joseph loves a challenge.

  3. AlaskanOsFan

    March 23, 2018 at 2:31 pm

    Are we starting out with an expanded rotation to begin the year? If that was the case I say keep him up and then when we normalize it when Cobb is ready to go full time then maybe consider moving him down with whichever starter u could send down as well? Love the kid and think he could be another gem for us to soften they blow of Manny leaving..which I am still vehemently against..great article!

    • Dan Connolly

      March 23, 2018 at 3:56 pm

      I think the fifth guy will just be in the Pen and spit start until Cobb is ready. And then likely go back to the Pen if effective.

  4. jkneps63

    March 23, 2018 at 3:11 pm

    I sure he makes the MLB squad, his spring OBP of 0.471, his OBP of 0.455, and his minor league OBP of 0.390 over five seasons is just what the Orioles need. Maybe Davis, Jones, Trumbo, etc. will watch this kid and say “Hey, I remember when I did that!” (ie, get on base).

    • Dan Connolly

      March 23, 2018 at 3:57 pm

      He does have a good eye for such a young player. That’s always been a strength.

  5. jkneps63

    March 23, 2018 at 3:21 pm

    2017 Catcher ERAs:

    Andrew Susac: 6.92
    Wellington Castillo: 5.60
    Chance Sisco: 5.40
    Caleb Joseph: 4.23

    • Dan Connolly

      March 23, 2018 at 3:57 pm

      Differing sample sizes of course. But Joseph is solid. And he caught plenty of Ubaldo too

  6. Orial

    March 23, 2018 at 3:33 pm

    I assume some of the thinking is that if he has to learn why not at the big league level with big league pitchers who could help train him. Let’s not forget his hitting, especially opposite field,is what won him a spot.

    • Dan Connolly

      March 23, 2018 at 3:58 pm

      I do think that’s part of it. Plus the presence of Russell.

  7. Steve Cockey

    March 23, 2018 at 4:20 pm

    Given his LH bat and on-base profile, do we see Sisco get any time at DH with Trumbo out? Does the lack of a 3rd catcher completely rule that out?

    • Dan Connolly

      March 23, 2018 at 5:22 pm

      Normally Buck doesn’t do that without a 3rd catcher. But he hasn’t had an upside bat like Sisco’s either.

  8. c4seyj0nes

    March 23, 2018 at 4:23 pm

    The nice thing about this move is that you can pinch hit for Joseph with Sisco late in a close game. You don’t need to burn 2 bench spots to pinch hit like you would when carrying a defense-first catcher.

  9. Zoey Dog Says Throw Strikes

    March 23, 2018 at 4:37 pm

    I haven’t had a chance to see Chance (harhar) catch yet, so my opinion is of the third-party variety, and as such, not much use for anything except stuffing Ethernet packets.

    If Buck likes what he sees in Cisco’s offense and defense, then I’m on board.

    • Dan Connolly

      March 23, 2018 at 5:24 pm

      I’m curious to see how much he plays initially

  10. bickel57

    March 23, 2018 at 6:17 pm

    I think they should pick a pitcher and let him be a personal catcher that way he can learn the nuances of calling a game and to the pitchers habits. I wouldn’t be surprise that after a while he will be starting and Joseph will be the late fame defensive replacement if he is hitting well

    • Dan Connolly

      March 23, 2018 at 6:49 pm

      Would have to be a big jump defensively for that to happen.

  11. Schwarzstop

    March 23, 2018 at 6:22 pm

    If anybody was watching, I was on record saying Cisco would be sent down and after his defensive miscues yesterday, I felt sure Susac was the backup to Joseph. Surprise! Surprise! Surprise! in my best Gomer Pyle voice! But, I’ve also said in the past “All Hail To Buck!” So I figure he knows what is best for the team more than I, so Trust In Buck!!!

    • Dan Connolly

      March 23, 2018 at 6:49 pm

      Yeah. I was a little surprised too.

  12. Disco Stupid

    March 23, 2018 at 6:26 pm

    I think the O’s are pushing the chips to the center of the table. There is little margin for error this year and his lefty stick can be very valuable. If Buck feels the defense is ok then I love the move.

    • Dan Connolly

      March 24, 2018 at 11:29 am

      That’s what it appears to be.

  13. Grand Strand Bird Fan

    March 23, 2018 at 8:03 pm

    I was surprised too. Mainly because all along the Orioles mgt indicated they wanted play reguarly to work on his defense. His hot hitting must have put him over the top. Plus as noted he can work with Russel on a daily basis. I still think Joseph is the no 1 catcher at this point.

    • Dan Connolly

      March 24, 2018 at 11:30 am

      Joseph is the No. 1 catcher at this point. No question.

      • Lookouts400

        March 24, 2018 at 2:07 pm

        True, but it’s not like he’s Johnny Bench. He’s a good, solid Major League catcher, but Sisco’s upside is far greater. Unless Sisco’s defense regresses, I agree with those who think he will be the number one later this summer, or at least pretty much even in playing time. Kinda like what happened with Holtby and Grubauer. Holts as the clear number one to get started but his play declined and Grubauer’s improved enough so that they are pretty much gonna go 50/50 for the rest of the season. Same thing could happen with Joseph and Sisco.

  14. Boog Robinson Robinson

    March 23, 2018 at 10:22 pm

    What do I think of it? Well, suffice it to say that the O’s are taking a big Chance here …
    Heck I’m a defense first catcher kind of guy. I wish we still had Matt Wieters behind the plate. OK, OK .. Dan I hear you. I”m over it. (maybe)

    Sisco kid was a friend of mine … he drink … oh never mind …walk up tune perhaps? Sorry, it’s late and past my bedtime.

    • Dan Connolly

      March 24, 2018 at 11:30 am

      Hahaha. Always appreciate the lightheartedness.

  15. Ben1

    March 24, 2018 at 7:57 am

    Could also be a lefty DH, maybe, when situation calls for one. Also, one or two rookies lower cost which “could” be applied to keeping Machado.

    • Dan Connolly

      March 24, 2018 at 11:31 am

      Buck is very careful about using the second catcher as a DH. Not his m.o. usually.

  16. Osfan73

    March 24, 2018 at 8:00 am

    I like the decision that he go north with the team. He’s earned it. Like what I’ve seen from him. AND I hope to see some of our other young players get some playing time through out the year as well.

    • Dan Connolly

      March 24, 2018 at 11:32 am

      I’m sure you’ll see some. The Orioles aren’t shy in moving players up.

  17. rhunt

    March 24, 2018 at 9:31 am

    I totally agree with the decision to keep Chance Sisco on the team! I get the argument to send him down for additional work on developing his defensive skills however it is a weak argument. His left handed bat is too valuable to keep in the minors. I think Russell will take his development as a personal challenge. Buck should venture out of his comfort zone and get Sisco’s bat in the lineup as much as possible. Chance has All Star potential and in my opinion he will overtake Caleb as the starting catcher sometime this season.

    • Dan Connolly

      March 24, 2018 at 11:33 am

      For a little perspective, he did hit .267 last year at AAA. I mean there is gonna be some struggles/regression in the majors.

  18. willmiranda

    March 24, 2018 at 11:27 am

    I think being in the Bigs will help accustom Sisco to opposing batters as well as the O’s pitchers. Such knowledge is a big part of a catcher’s defensive value. I also believe that we have several high-upside young pitchers in Norfolk who will benefit from a more experienced and defensively accomplished backstop. Offensively Sisco has nothing to gain by another year in the minors.

    • Dan Connolly

      March 24, 2018 at 11:35 am

      AAA will be Susac and Wynns, so we’re not talking Crash Davis there either. But older and more experienced as catchers than Sisco, yes.

  19. Raveonjo

    March 24, 2018 at 1:41 pm

    The problem is, with his position, he can’t be taken out of the game as a late inning defensive replacement without risk. After watching him on Thursday, I’d hate to see him out there in the ninth with the Orioles nursing a one run lead.

    • Dan Connolly

      March 24, 2018 at 2:24 pm

      He’ll get there, I’d imagine But I think fans aren’t focused on just how essential catching defense is. Can be a game changer.

  20. Booged and Powelled

    March 24, 2018 at 2:57 pm

    Dan this seems to me like a wait and see move as Im sure all three backups will see time here over the course of the first half of the season…injuries not withstanding.

    Its a nice boost to his confidence and it will be up to him to produce or to be demoted and get better. its nice to talk about a relatively minor issue for a change.

    nice article as usual

    • Dan Connolly

      March 24, 2018 at 11:52 pm

      Thanks. And that is an interesting point. All have options. All could come up and down. If he’s not getting sufficient PT Sisco can always go back down at any point.

  21. Eldersburg Enigma

    March 25, 2018 at 12:30 pm

    Who is the emergency catcher? And please, please don’t let Flaherty be the answer.

    • Dan Connolly

      March 25, 2018 at 12:58 pm

      No one right now. But Buck always has a plan.

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