Behind the plate, Orioles believe Sisco will catch on - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Rich Dubroff

Behind the plate, Orioles believe Sisco will catch on

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

Entering the 2018 season, the Orioles trumpeted their catching as an area of strength. They had four catchers on the 40-man roster, and three were home-grown.

But this apparent strength has been a huge disappointment so far.

Oriole catchers are batting just .200 with four home runs and 24 RBIs.

The Orioles have used all four catchers on the roster: Caleb Joseph and Chance Sisco, who began the season with the team, Austin Wynns, who is in his second stint with the team, and Andrew Susac.

After Joseph struggled offensively, they replaced him with Susac in mid-May. When Susac was just 3-for-26 (.115) in nine games, they tried Wynns. For a spell, they had both Sisco and Wynns on the roster, but with Sisco floundering, they sent him to Triple-A Norfolk for 10 days last month, and he was returned there Saturday.

Currently, the catchers are Joseph, whose average has trended up from .182 when he returned from Norfolk June 18—to .209, and Wynns, who’s hitting .192.

After backing up Matt Wieters and Welington Castillo the last three seasons, Joseph was excited to be the Opening Day catcher, but at the end of April, he was hitting just .137 with two RBIs—both in the opener.

When he was sent down, Joseph was on a four-game hitting streak but still not playing the way the Orioles had hoped.

Because Joseph was struggling, Sisco got additional opportunities. The Orioles have been touting Sisco’s bat and improved defense, and a strong spring training when he hit .429 essentially forced them to bring him north. The Orioles wanted Sisco’s left-handed bat on the roster to start the season.

And, he was a prospect they’d been counting on for years.

Joseph’s inability to hit gave Sisco additional opportunities, but after he hit .255 in the season’s first month, it’s been downhill since. Sisco was just 3-for-30 in his most recent stint with the Orioles and is hitting just .195 with one RBI since May 27.

Sisco’s defense, which was supposedly improving, hit a wall, too. He threw out nine of his first 18 runners attempting to steal but, at one point, 17 straight were successful in stealing with him behind the plate.

The Orioles think he needs more work, both offensively and defensively, and expect that his time at Norfolk may be longer than the 10-day minimum.

“Just trying to get him going from a mental state of mind as much as anything,” manager Buck Showalter said. “We know he’s a much better hitter than he’s shown here. He’s caught and called the game. He’s grown. He’s covered himself throwing people out.

“We think a lot of him in the future. We’d like to see him have some extended success.”

Joseph, who threw out 40 percent of attempted baserunners as a rookie in 2014, has seen his throwing numbers fall since then. Last year, Joseph threw out just 18 percent of runners (10 of 55) and this year, it’s 29 percent (20 of 28).

The Orioles hoped Sisco would take over the top job, but he’s far away from that. Wynns is an organizational favorite because of his work ethic and willingness, but he hit just .230 in 41 games at Norfolk this season.

Sisco, Susac and the offensively challenged Armando Araiza, who was recently promoted from Double-A Bowie, are the catchers on Norfolk’s roster.

Susac has 113 games of major league experience with the Giants, Brewers and Orioles, but injuries have hampered him.

The Orioles have staked much on Sisco, who hit .312 in the minors with a .390 on-base percentage. They need him to succeed and will give him every chance.

“It’s been tough on him mentally and emotionally,” Showalter said. “It’s the first time a guy has really struggled offensively. It’s how they react to it.”

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12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. Dblack2508

    July 20, 2018 at 12:06 pm

    Another area of weakness in the organization. Sisco is still young and was probably rushed to the big leagues, what is alarming is his defense is still way below average. Its probably he will end up at another position when it’s all said and done.

    • Rich Dubroff

      July 20, 2018 at 6:31 pm

      For a while, it seemed like it was a position of strength, but as I pointed out, all the catchers seemed to have underperformed. The Orioles have invested a lot in Sisco, and they’ll be patient, but it would be a shame if he has to change positions.

  2. boss61

    July 20, 2018 at 12:11 pm

    Dempsey likes Wynns the best of all of them, for what its worth. Maybe a catching prospect comes back in trade?

    • Ekim

      July 20, 2018 at 1:45 pm

      That would be nice!

    • Rich Dubroff

      July 20, 2018 at 6:33 pm

      Catching is the most difficult commodity to find. Wynns could be the best defensive prospect. If he hits, that will be a bonus.

  3. TheGreat8

    July 20, 2018 at 6:07 pm

    Cisco as a real major leaguer? I mean i don’t see any reason why he would be. Sorry, meant to say why he “wouldn’t be”. That should fix that.

  4. OsfansinWV

    July 20, 2018 at 7:42 pm

    Is it possible to get a catching prospect in return for a future trade? IMO Cisco is not so bad for being a rookie going thru his 1st season. Not many veteran catchers hit above the 2.50-2.60 range anyways. Should be Cisco and Wynns rotating rest of this season to show what they bring, what is there to lose now! Let’s go O’s!!!

    • Rich Dubroff

      July 20, 2018 at 7:51 pm

      Well, Osfanin WV, good catching is hard to get in a trade. I’m sure the Orioles would like to get another catcher. Sisco batting .195 isn’t going to cut it. For a bit, it was Sisco and Wynns alternating.

      • OsfansinWV

        July 20, 2018 at 8:05 pm

        Totally understand about catching prospects via trade but let the 2 rookies get the experience. What does the club have to lose rest of the season? The vet being used is a career 2.20 batter at 32 years old and not gonna be around much longer…..

  5. JerseyOsFan

    July 21, 2018 at 5:34 pm

    Sisco is where he needs to be… developing in Norfolk where he can be the #1 receiver. Chance needs “catcher’s everyday” seasoning and Norfolk is where he can gain that. If Susac is helping groom Sisco and give him some help to become a Major Leaguer, then fine… but I thought he was brought in to be the #2 in Baltimore. I also don’t follow Araiza being up to sit in Norfolk…but I might have some homework to do…

    • Steve Cockey

      July 21, 2018 at 10:18 pm

      I do agree that Sisco can still benefit from catching every day at Norfolk. Let’s not forget that he didn’t begin catching until his senior year of high school.

  6. Borg

    July 22, 2018 at 7:00 am

    Although this will seem like a silly argument now given Sisco’s lack of hitting at the major league level, but with a hole at third base I wondered why the O’s didn’t give him a look there in Spring Training. He was a shortstop in high school (he still looks more like a middle infielder than a catcher physically) so it seemed possible he could make that transition. My thought was it would prolong a career that was more heavily weighted towards his offense rather than his defense. How many catchers can hit? How many can hit for a long period of time? He has been in the minors for four years (?) now and it is starting to look less and less likely that he cuts it as a catcher defensively. As far as the caught stealing numbers, if the whole catching group is below par it probably rests on the pitchers more than the catchers. Holding runners is another area where they lack focus.

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