As Orioles wait for Adley Rutschman, last year's catchers try to stick around -

Rich Dubroff

As Orioles wait for Adley Rutschman, last year’s catchers try to stick around

Adley Rutschman won’t be the Orioles’ starting catcher in 2020. After making him the first overall pick in last June’s draft and signing him to a record $8.1 million signing bonus, the Orioles are grooming him to be their catcher for many years to come.

Rutschman briefly played at Rookie Level Gulf Coast, moved up to Short Season Aberdeen and finished his initial pro season at Low-A Delmarva.

At the major league level,  the Orioles used four catchers — Pedro Severino, Chance Sisco, Jesus Sucre and Austin Wynns.

Sucre is gone from the organization. He began the season with the Orioles, but was in Norfolk after 20 games and didn’t play for the Tides after the end of July. He’s elected free agency.

Severino, claimed on waivers from the Washington Nationals just before spring training ended, started the most games, 80. He had a fine first half of the season, hitting .272 with an .818 OPS. In the second half, he slumped to .221 with a .644 OPS.

Sisco, who floundered badly in 2018, got another chance in 2019, hitting .210, but he had a .333 on-base percentage and a .729 OPS.

After he was called up in early June, Sisco got off to a nice start offensively, hitting .267 in 14 June games with 15 RBIs, but he again sputtered in the second half of the season. In September, Sisco hit just .143.

Sisco was the Orioles’ second-round pick in 2013, a draft in which the Orioles choose four catchers in their first 11 picks. Wynns was chosen in the 10th round. The other two catchers, Jonah Heim (fourth round) and Alex Murphy (sixth round), never played for the Orioles.

The Orioles hoped was that Sisco would succeed Matt Wieters as the franchise catcher, but that hasn’t happened.


Sisco hit well in the minor leagues but struggled defensively. In 2019, Sisco threw out just five of 30 (17 percent) of runners attempting to steal.

Severino’s defense sufered along with his offense in the season’s second half. He began the season by throwing out nine of the first 12 runners who tried to steal on him but ended the year by throwing out just 24 percent (42-for-55) of basestealers.

The Orioles’ top two starters, John Means and Dylan Bundy, had similar ERAs  when working with Severino and Sisco. Mychal Givens, who struggled through a difficult season, had a 5.80 ERA when throwing to Severino but allowed just one earned run in 12 1/3 innings (0.73) with Sisco catching him.

Wynns hit .214 in 28 games and threw out 3 of 14 runners (21 percent) attempting to steal.

With Rutschman clearly the future, and the team in desperate need of pitching, should the Orioles punt on improving the catching in 2020?

Other than Martin Cervenka, who finished the season at Triple-A Norfolk along with Wynns, and Carlos Perez, who has four seasons of major league experience, there aren’t any other major league catching candidates in the system.

Cervenka remains in the organization but had a disappointing year. Perez played most of the season at Double-A Bowie and received praise for his work with the Baysox’s young pitchers.

If Perez doesn’t stay in the organization, the Orioles will attempt to sign other minor league free agents to help with the spring training workload.

Brett Cumberland, whom the Orioles received from Atlanta in the Kevin Gausman trade, also caught for Bowie but isn’t considered a major league prospect.

Rutschman could return to Delmarva to begin the season or could jump to High-A Frederick, but he won’t be catching for the Orioles next season.

While the temptation to stick with Severino, Sisco and Wynns might be there, the Orioles need better catching to work with the pitching prospects who are likely to join the team later in 2020.

It remains an opportunity for the three incumbents to prove they belong in the major leagues until Rutschman arrives. Catching once or twice a week might not seem appealing but caddying for a top-shelf catcher is a major league job.

In general manager Mike Elias’ first draft, he did what his predecessor, Dan Duquette, did in 2013. Elias loaded up on catchers. He picked Stanford’s Maverick Handley in the sixth round and Jordan Cannon, from Sam Houston State, in the 10th round.

Handley, who wasn’t an offensive force in college, had trouble at the plate for Aberdeen, hitting just .202 but threw out 63 percent of basestealers (19-for-30).

Besides Cannon, who didn’t have great stats in his first taste of pro ball, the Orioles also picked Harris Yett, another college catcher in the 32nd round. Yett hit .340 for Gulf Coast.

Perhaps Cannon, Handley or Yett can someday back up Rutschman.

While we wait, we’ll see if Severino, Sisco and Wynns get additional chances to prove they’re worthy of staying around.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB



  1. Boog Robinson Robinson

    October 23, 2019 at 8:14 am

    For a management team that is preaching patience, giving up on Severino, and especially Sisco, would be insane. Chance Sisco may not end up being a full time catcher, but he’ll be a major league player for someone, at some position for years to come. His left handed stick just needs for MLB at bats.

    • Zoey Dog Says Throw Strikes

      October 23, 2019 at 10:24 am

      Hey Boog — I think it was you who said yesterday that the Nats looks like a team of destiny. Brother, you weren’t kidding.

  2. SpinMaster

    October 23, 2019 at 8:31 am

    Rich: Didn’t Sisco start out in another position other than catcher (infield, maybe)? I know we seem to have a lot of other position players but is it possible to try Sisco at another position? I agree with Boog, his bat needs major league at-bats.

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 23, 2019 at 9:23 am

      Spin, Sisco apparently played the infield in high school, but as a pro, he’s played one inning at first base, but nowhere else. It’s certainly possible the Orioles will try him in another spot, but I’ve heard nothing about it.

  3. Orial

    October 23, 2019 at 8:44 am

    The most important statement in your article Rich is having a catcher that can work with a young pitching staff. Though the simple logic would be to ride out Severino and Sisco till Rutchsman is ready,serious logic would be that the young pitchers may need more of an upgrade. Elias would be smart to keep an eye on this winter’s open market and look for a “tutor” type catcher. Can’t just go with a “hold down the fort” attitude when there is critical pitching developemental work to be done.

  4. Bhoffman1

    October 23, 2019 at 8:59 am

    You know I was a fan of Sisco but his season was a total disappointment. He hits in the minors , hits his first few weeks here then shuts down. He has a good eye at the plate something more O’s should learn but you still gotta hit when you swing. His defense we know is not a strong point but I feel he’s a smarter play caller then Serverino who will never be more then a backup guy.

  5. willmiranda

    October 23, 2019 at 9:45 am

    Bring back Caleb Joseph.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      October 23, 2019 at 12:24 pm

      I’ve heard worse ideas. Caleb was a trooper.

    • Borg

      October 23, 2019 at 5:15 pm

      If Rutschman was actually the projected #1 in 2020, Joseph would be an effective option. With AR at least a year and possibly more away from being the regular, the Os need to identify another player now and get him ready. If Rutschman can catch 125 games when he finally arrives for good, I don’t know if it matters all that much which one ends up being the backup, though it is beginning to look very much as if Sisco is a AAAA guy.

  6. Tony Paparella

    October 23, 2019 at 10:14 am

    Sisco has been a disappointment after all the hype both with bat and behind the plate.Hard to have a catcher still developing when you have a pitching staff that needs developing also.Certainly not an expert but these guys have been around awhile and you would think if they had it in them (defensively)it would show by now.Just saying because I did not realize how poor a performance all Oriole catchers had throwing out runners.As far as Sisco’s bat, I think we all look back at his minor league numbers and expect those results ,but so far he has been on and off with the bat and more towards the latter.

  7. Zoey Dog Says Throw Strikes

    October 23, 2019 at 10:34 am

    Cisco will never be more than a backup catcher at the MLB level. His defense is just atrocious, and not getting much better. He could hit like Juan Soto and not make up for his deficiencies at catcher. Let’s see if he can capably play 2B or maybe LF. SS, no. 3B is probably not realistic due to his(lack of) arm. Same for RF.

    Chance is running out of chances. Rutschman is clearly the catcher of the future. He’s going to play excellent defense, we know this. Offensively, even if he’s a relative flop (which I do not expect) he will still hit enough to justify him being a starter.

    So why keep dicking around with Cisco at catcher? Any number of scrubs can play better defense than Chance and that’s really all that should concern a rebuilding team. Plus, IMO Severino has played well enough to be the #1 catcher, so get a defensive specialist for the #2 catcher slot and see if Cisco can make himself into a major leaguer. He’s clearly not MLB caliber as a catcher.

    If they think his bat will translate, then take the pressure off of him trying to do something we know he can’t do (play excellent defense at catcher) and see if he can be serviceable someplace else on the diamond where his bat can make up for the defense.

    • [email protected]

      October 23, 2019 at 11:19 am

      Sounds like a future DH…

    • Bancells Moustache

      October 23, 2019 at 12:31 pm

      I think the arm, while certainly not big league catcher caliber, is adequate for 3B. The problem is that now, with the proliferation of infield shifting, third sackers demand a Shortstop type of skill set, ala Machado and Bregman. The era of the power hitting third baseman with a cannon for an arm but limited mobility is over.

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        October 23, 2019 at 1:00 pm

        That is probably true, but only until MLB outlaws the shift. Or players actually learn to hit again.

      • Zoey Dog Says Throw Strikes

        October 23, 2019 at 3:47 pm

        I get what you’re saying, and I agree it’s better to have such an athletic 3B. That said, it’s not a requirement that the 3B play SS during a shift. They could leave the SS there, and put the 3B in shallow right. And actually, this may be even better as you only have one player playing out of position, instead of three.

    • Bhoffman1

      October 23, 2019 at 4:33 pm

      He should be athletic enough to play second. I fully expect Vilar not to be on this club next year

  8. NormOs

    October 23, 2019 at 4:31 pm

    We may as well face the fact that we have our catching tandem, at least, for the immediate future until Adley is ready. There will not be any O’s money “wasted” on an experienced MLB catcher at any price because they (MLB catchers) are too expensive. Oh, wait, that goes for pitchers, position players, etc. etc. etc.

    Analytics………….Analytics………………Analytics (whatever the hell that is)

    2018 – 115 Losses 2019 – 108 losses 2020 – 1** losses

  9. mlbbirdfan

    October 23, 2019 at 4:41 pm

    Point of the article: the Orioles need to scour the market place for an inexpensive major league catcher, or maybe two. How about some suggestions with major league experience?
    Minnesota has three (Garver, Castro, Astudillo)
    Texas has three(Trevino, Mathis, Federowicz)
    Toronto has three(Jansen, Maile, McGuire)
    STL has 3 including Wieters
    Cubs have 3
    Dodgers have 4
    San Fran has 3 plus a great prospect (Joey Bart)
    Thoughts, Rich and others?

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 23, 2019 at 5:51 pm

      I would be shocked if Matt Wieters returned to Baltimore, mlbbirdfan.

  10. Mhmartz

    October 23, 2019 at 7:09 pm

    I’ve seen Bowie fairly often here in AA Richmond. I like Perez behind the plate. He’s already caught Kremer, Sedlock, Zimmerman and Baumann. He’s not quite Crash Davis but he’s getting there. Joey Bart gave a big boost to a Flying Squirrels team that desperately needed one but the Giants won’t give him away.

  11. J Guy

    October 27, 2019 at 7:08 pm

    Get Rick Dempsey to coach the young catchers it’s not going to hurt it is sorry now only way is up from where we are now

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