Tap-In Question: Is Sisco's demotion smart for development or counterproductive for his future? - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Dan Connolly

Tap-In Question: Is Sisco’s demotion smart for development or counterproductive for his future?

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

I try to make sure the bar is available after most wins.

Therefore, it’s been a slow three months here at the Tap Room. It seems like we’ve been open as often as Ravens receivers.

Finally, the Orioles won a game Sunday, their first in 10 tries, snapping a string of 11-straight defeats at home, which tied a club record.

At least these guys are respective of their elders; their last two home wins have been blowouts on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. (By the way, the Orioles lost 2-1 to the Toronto Blue Jays on Siblings Day, April 10).

After Sunday’s game, the club announced that rookie catcher Chance Sisco was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk.

In a sense, it’s no surprise. He was batting .218 on the season and had 50 strikeouts in 141 plate appearances. In the past four weeks, he’s hit .200 with one extra-base hit and 16 strikeouts in 54 plate appearances – although he walked seven times in that span for a .407 on-base percentage.

So, there were still things to like about Sisco offensively, even though he wasn’t driving the ball.

Defensively, Sisco’s shine had dulled, too. He threw out 10 of 36 (28 percent) would-be basestealers – a tick above the AL average — but that stat has been skewed by his standout early performance. He started the season by nabbing half of the first 18 runners that tried to steal on him. He’s thrown one of the last 18, however.

He only has one passed ball so far this season, but there have been 14 wild pitches while he’s been catching – not statistically his fault, but his blocking certainly could improve, too.

The bottom line is this is what you’re gonna get with a 23-year-old catcher in his first full season in the big leagues. Catcher is like no other position; there is so much that must be handled all at once: Calming pitchers, calling pitches, blocking balls, curtailing runners. Oh, and then you are expected to hit, too.

Given that, Sisco held his own. But it became clearer that he could use everyday playing time to work on things. And it was also clear he wasn’t getting that opportunity in Baltimore right now (besides his OBP, prospect status and age, it’s hard to argue that he earned that opportunity, frankly.)

That’s kind of my question today: The issue of wrestling with what’s better for a young kid with talent.

Sisco had a great spring with the bat and deserved to make the team on Opening Day, but even then I probably would have left him in Triple-A to play almost every day.

He ultimately carved out more playing time with the Orioles, especially when incumbent Caleb Joseph was sent to Norfolk in May in what was a curious decision at best (Joseph had finally started hitting when demoted).

But Sisco still wasn’t made a full-timer, not with Andrew Susac and then Austin Wynns also handling backstop duties.

Now, Joseph is coming back to the majors and Sisco is going down, presumably to play and play and play some more.

That’s probably the right call, because I think Sisco is mentally strong enough to handle the demotion and to improve on his weaknesses. It should be good for him, competing in a lower-stress environment.

The flip side, though, is that this season in already ruined. It should be a time when the young guys with upside should get a ton of playing time with the Orioles; sending Sisco down now seems counterproductive to that concept.

Again, to me, this would be the time to recall Sisco from Norfolk after he has flourished for a couple months in the minors. But the Orioles chose not to go that direction in March. I could certainly see that argument then.

And I see both sides of this argument now.

Sisco will be fine in the future. He knows what he needs to improve on to return, and he has the work ethic to do it. But I wouldn’t be opposed to allowing him to sink or swim in the majors on a dismal team, either.

What do you think?

Tap-In Question: Is the demotion of Sisco smart for his development or counterproductive for his future?

53 Comments

53 Comments

  1. Boog Robinson Robinson

    June 18, 2018 at 7:26 am

    Why now? Makes no sense to me. What better time for him to learn the ways of the big leagues than during a lost cause season? Let him play every day against the best competition in the world this year, and hopefully he’ll be better suited to be a contributor next year, when hopefully, the team will be playing for something. I understand refining his game behind the plate in Norfolk, but hitting against second rate pitching is only going to retard his offensive game.
    I think the big mistake was trying to reward Caleb for his dutiful service to start the year, rather than handing the job to Sisco immediately.

    • Dan Connolly

      June 18, 2018 at 9:41 am

      I’m ok with much of what you said. But catching is way too hard to give it full-time to a rookie on Opening Day, especially one who had some defensive questions. That affects the pitching staff too.

  2. LenSakata

    June 18, 2018 at 7:45 am

    I see the demotion as a publicity stunt. Maybe the Os figured having 2 brothers playing at the same time will sell more tickets.

    Regardless at this point the Os should play Sisco daily. The rest of the season should be about developing future talent not auditioning backup catchers. Also, how many Os have hit that much better than Sisco?

    • Dan Connolly

      June 18, 2018 at 9:42 am

      Considering that the brother thing will start on the road and there’s no guarantee either remains up, I’d shoot down that theory.

    • noto44

      June 19, 2018 at 12:22 pm

      Selling tickets is important however, the O’s will need to address their “plans” (rebuild or continue to implode) so the fan base will know whether to check in or begin attending games down on 95.

  3. boss61

    June 18, 2018 at 8:20 am

    I read with interest certain other online accounts of discussions between Buck and Sisco, and then Buck with the press, that lead me to believe that a key factor in his demotion was his health, physical possibly but more probably otherwise. Apparently he has had many sleepless nights.

    When I was 23 I had occasional sleepless nights too because of one thing. Something was wrong with my social life in terms of the opposite gender. Usually what was wrong was too much quiescence, but that was me.

    So my hypothesis: Sisco has girl problems, and that is weighing on his capability to perform.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      June 18, 2018 at 8:27 am

      One of the more curious responses I’ve ever read in the Tap Room.

      But by “perform”, are you talking on the field or off?

      Dan, drink on me for this man’s creative, if not deviant thinking.

      • JCO

        June 18, 2018 at 8:47 am

        Booooooooggggg, my thought with these demotions is “well maybe there’s something else going on we don’t know about” but, um, that was always more along the line of a scout noticing a bad habit they were picking up or having a hard time adjusting to not doing well. Never took it to this sort of level…

        • Boog Robinson Robinson

          June 18, 2018 at 10:26 am

          Hey, I wasn’t taking it to that level either. I was just responding to the Boss’ curious choice of words!

          • boss61

            June 18, 2018 at 10:33 am

            Having once been 23 myself and know how successes or (much more often) failures in that realm affected me at that age, I combined that recollection with Buck’s cagey description of lots of missed sleep, and an illness that is not an illness. Obviously I’m just guessing here.

    • Dan Connolly

      June 18, 2018 at 9:43 am

      I’m just gonna give a drink chip here. Nothing else to say.

      • boss61

        June 18, 2018 at 10:07 am

        I was just guessing of course. But I do remember being 23.

  4. TxBirdFan

    June 18, 2018 at 8:29 am

    I’m ok with sending him down to play everyday and build up his confidence more quickly than it would if he stayed in the majors. His fast start this year was a nice surprise, but perhaps born more of Adrenalin than developed talent. I look forward to him coming back in the 2nd half of the year.

    If “by Chance” this turns into a publicity event for the 2 Joseph brothers, I’m ok with that too! I look forward to talking about something other than losing and weak leadership.

    • Dan Connolly

      June 18, 2018 at 9:45 am

      It’ll be the first time since 1996 that Oriole brothers have played together in the bigs.

  5. Orial

    June 18, 2018 at 8:36 am

    I’m in favor of the move for one simple reason(well maybe not that simple)—the chaos and confusion of the Orioles. This makes it more of a mental demotion letting him improve and takeover a leadership role without the drama surrounding him in Baltimore. Oh and yes a little defensive/ offensive confidence boost wouldn’t hurt.

  6. mlbbirdfan

    June 18, 2018 at 8:52 am

    Boog said “hopefully next year the team will be playing for something”. What is he smoking? The Orioles will play less-than-.500 Baseball for five years or longer! Honestly, I don’t see any hope for the future at this time. I have been an ardent passionate fan of the Baltimore Orioles for 60 years. This is about as gloomy as I have ever been.

    • boss61

      June 18, 2018 at 9:33 am

      I’m 57 years old and agree. The Dark Ages are upon us. Again. But seemingly even worse than before.

    • Dan Connolly

      June 18, 2018 at 9:46 am

      I tell you what. It’s impossible to predict. If a rebuild is done right it can be turned around in 2-3 years. But it has to be done right.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      June 18, 2018 at 10:40 am

      How’s about playing for pride? Maybe a .500 record or simply rooting for your favorite player? It’s all cyclical. Heck, didn’ the Sox just go through some 1st to worst to 1st again years?

      C’mon fellow fans-of-the feathers, you just gotta dig that inner 10 year old boy out of the attic and have a little faith! It’s baseball, and frankly, if you don’t have any hope come spring time, why not just give up on life altogether and go watch some soccer?

      • mlbbirdfan

        June 18, 2018 at 3:38 pm

        Boog: we had 5 good years under Buck, but now it seems the game is passing him by. The use of analytics matters. We don’t do it. International players matter. We don’t go after them. At my age, I cannot afford to wait another 10 or 12 years to see five good years.
        I will root for the Orioles until the day I die. But this team is very difficult to watch, and I have no confidence in the ownership, the front office, or on field management. I’ve never said that before!

  7. Creatively09

    June 18, 2018 at 9:08 am

    I don’t think it can hurt his development much, if at all. Clearly he wasn’t developing up here, sure it takes time, but he just hasn’t been that good in any aspect except getting hit with pitches. Let him see if going to AAA will help him get back on track, there’s nothing to lose, he can always be called back up if he gets it going.

    • Dan Connolly

      June 18, 2018 at 9:47 am

      That’s probably the way I lean the most. I think he will be fine.

  8. Mfjak

    June 18, 2018 at 9:22 am

    Sisco needs more consistent playing time to iron out the kinks. He’s good and will adjust quickly. But beyond that is his service time. It is being wasted in a lost year. As we did with Britton managing down his games in his first year to get a 7th pre FA year out of him makes a lot of sense in a lost year. Sisco was getting close to not qualify for a 7th year.

    • Raymo

      June 18, 2018 at 9:42 am

      Sure, it could be some runaway emotions regarding his girlfriend (boss61), or it could be to get him away from the current circus atmosphere in Baltimore (Orial). But this financial argument makes the most sense to me and was probably the biggest contributing factor.

    • Dan Connolly

      June 18, 2018 at 9:50 am

      The Super 2 status is a floating number determined after a season. I’m not sure where he will fall — short I’d think — if he doesn’t come up again this year. But we do expect to see him.

  9. Grand Strand Bird Fan

    June 18, 2018 at 9:28 am

    Sisco has been struggling and its common practice to send young players back to the minors in their development process. He played his way onto the team coming out of ST. I think this will be good for him and the team moving forward.

    • Dan Connolly

      June 18, 2018 at 9:51 am

      That is the typical pattern. I guess the wild card is how bad this team is.

  10. Hansen_ss_03

    June 18, 2018 at 10:34 am

    Unfortunately I believe it has been mentioned elsewhere that Chance may have a throwing problem (back to the pitcher). If so, it could be causing sleepless nights. This could be best handled at the minor league level out of the major spotlight. I sincerely hope he can resolve any difficulties and I pray everything will turn out well for him.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      June 18, 2018 at 10:52 am

      I believe it was Rube Baker who found that by memorizing and reciting Playboy Playmate’s measurements and personal likes and turnoffs during the game, helped to calm his nerves and get the ball back to the pitcher when he had a similar throwing problem.

    • Dan Connolly

      June 18, 2018 at 11:04 am

      Ok. Drink chip. You are cracking me up today. And going deep into the Major League discography

  11. JParsley

    June 18, 2018 at 10:45 am

    It doesn’t really matter how they handle it. Although like you I never understood the Joseph demotion

    • Dan Connolly

      June 18, 2018 at 11:06 am

      It just seemed like odd timing. After a disastrous April he was hitting near .270 in May and the defense, at least to me, seemed to be improving. It was like it was a message to veterans and he had the option remaining. But it really said little.

    • JParsley

      June 18, 2018 at 1:34 pm

      And the most important part was that he is the most experienced catcher on the team. He knows more about our pitching staff and could help teaching Sisco. Caleb is extremely valuable player even if he is not playing well

  12. jonniebmore

    June 18, 2018 at 11:08 am

    I don’t like the move. He is struggling but I don’t see what he can gain from going to Norfolk. Isn’t the “catching guru” John Russell sitting on the bench at Camden Yards? Does it not make sense to have Russell to continue to coach him up? And finally, Sisco is not hitting as well as we hoped, but Joseph was smoking major league pitching at .182, Susac at .115 and Winns at .227. I’d rather see if Sisco (.218) can get hot. His OBP is very good.

    • Dan Connolly

      June 18, 2018 at 11:25 am

      Again, Joseph was hitting .269 in May when he was sent down. Just seems like none of these moves with catcher have worked out — or made tons of sense.

  13. Bancells Moustache

    June 18, 2018 at 11:21 am

    It wasn’t helping his development anyhow with Showalter wedded to the righty/lefty theory and sitting him against left handed pitching. What’s the point? If you are bringing the guy along to be your everyday backstop, and your team sucks, why not let him get reps against a few southpaws? I’m not worried about the catcher position in the next coming years, Sisco and Wynns look like they could develop into passable big league options, but if Sisco is “the guy”, what is the point of him riding the bus for another few weeks?

    • Dan Connolly

      June 18, 2018 at 11:24 am

      Maybe it will help get the offensive confidence back. Like I said, the kid needs to play a lot. I’m not as concerned as to where.

    • Bancells Moustache

      June 18, 2018 at 11:25 am

      Wait, did I just read the suggestion that Sisco can’t get laid? That can happen when you wear a mask on TV. Let him play first a few games, get some face time in on ESPN and cut him loose in Fed Hill, problem solved.

  14. JerseyOsFan

    June 18, 2018 at 11:55 am

    Personally, I am scratching my head as to why it wasn’t Joseph/Susac (Balt) and Sisco/Wynns (Norfolk) from the get go. If you want to flip the backups, fine. Sisco needs lots of reps. Norfolk is where Sisco can get those reps. Play him 5 games a week against every pitcher… get the offense going where the microscope is not as big. The microscope will be huge is he is a bright spot for Balt (especially on a blah team). Resist the urge to call him up before September unless it’s a must (eg 2 other catchers injured).

    • Dan Connolly

      June 18, 2018 at 10:22 pm

      Susac missed major time in ST so he want ready to make the Opening Day roster. Joseph was a lock so it was one spot. I would have gone Wynns with reasons given above but Sisco hit the junk out of the ball in the spring.

  15. ButchBird59

    June 18, 2018 at 12:40 pm

    I was surprised but, not disappointed with the Sisco demotion. Frankly, caught stealing numbers don’t bother me much as not many teams run much anymore and when they do, it’s usually on the pitcher. I’m not in the dugout but, the starting pitching has definitely improved lately so I assume Sisco and Wynns are doing alright calling the games.

    Like you said, Sisco can use the work so I’m not disappointed. Behind the plate seems to be one area this organization is well stocked. I think the future is Sisco and Wynns. This season, the question is always in the back of my mind, “Who is being schooled and who is being shopped?” I would assume Caleb Joseph is the one being shopped. If it’s one of the youngsters being shopped, I will be disappointed to say the least!

    • Dan Connolly

      June 18, 2018 at 10:23 pm

      Sisco is their catcher of the future. Can’t imagine there is any shopping there.

  16. Nogo03

    June 18, 2018 at 1:54 pm

    Bad idea. It seems as though Sisco’s control of the running game is an area of concern. Sisco is right above league average at throwing runners out, and even though we expect Sisco to be an above average player throughout his career demoting him probably won’t help. I don’t see a pro alone with letting him work will Russell or letting him work during spring training. As far as hitting goes, I don’t know too much about the coaching down at Norfolk but I do know that if someone, especially a younger player is being pushed to there limit, you don’t change the limit. You want them to improve…right?

    • Dan Connolly

      June 18, 2018 at 10:24 pm

      Sure. But I think taking a little pressure off isn’t always a bad thing. Again, he is 23.

  17. 54orioles

    June 18, 2018 at 2:30 pm

    Ask Jim Palmer.

    • Dan Connolly

      June 18, 2018 at 10:24 pm

      He’s usually shy with his opinion.

    • 54orioles

      June 19, 2018 at 7:24 am

      Yeah right

  18. arrpeebee

    June 18, 2018 at 2:33 pm

    If he’s not playing minimum half the games up here he needs to go where he can play the bulk of games in the minors. The bat has never really been the question or concern w/Sisco. I honestly thought he should’ve started the year at Norfolk because catcher is too pivotal of a position for someone to continue learning in the majors on a team that stated it’s intention was to compete for the playoffs this year. It would’ve made more sense to start in AAA and have him come up now that the season is lost.

    • Dan Connolly

      June 18, 2018 at 10:26 pm

      Drink chip for agreeing with the barkeep.

  19. woody

    June 18, 2018 at 6:39 pm

    Clearly smart for development. What assistance is it to subject him to this .250 ball nonsense if he’s borderline talent? He was slated to be a late call-up and i’d say he came up too early anyway – he’s certainly gotten enough experience and if he returns in August then I think he will have had time to reflect on a few things and enjoy his next time up. Furthermore i’m not sure Caleb should have ever been sent down and should have been our primary catcher from the outset, so i’m glad to see him back.

    • Dan Connolly

      June 18, 2018 at 10:27 pm

      Yeah. I’m on board with most of that.

  20. Ron tee

    June 19, 2018 at 2:02 am

    he should be brought back up for second half of season as he is the best we have and let him learn from his mistakes. this is a triple a team anyway.

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