Orioles' catching competition; Valaika lost on waivers; Showalter interviews with Astros - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Orioles’ catching competition; Valaika lost on waivers; Showalter interviews with Astros

Photo Credit: Joy R. Absalon

This week, the Orioles added veteran Bryan Holaday to their catching mix. Of all the positions on the team, there’s less intrigue about catching than with any other.

That’s because their catcher of the future, Adley Rutschman, is looming in the not-too-distant future.

At last month’s Winter Meetings in San Diego, general manager Mike Elias said that Rutschman would be participating in major league spring training. Invitations to non-roster players have yet to be announced, but Rutschman will play some early Grapefruit League games.

It will be beneficial, Elias said, to expose Rutschman to the major league coaching staff.

At the same time, Elias said that Rutschman won’t be playing for the Orioles in 2020, saying that he couldn’t see last year’s overall No. 1 pick advancing four levels in a season.

While Rutschman learns, presumably at High-A Frederick to begin the season, four catchers battle for two spots on the Orioles, and one of those might be the phenom’s mentor when he comes to the big leagues. Perhaps it doesn’t seem to be a meaningful position, but being the understudy to a player who is supposed to be a star is still a job in the major leagues.

The 32-year-old Holaday has played in the major leagues in each of the last eight seasons with Detroit, Texas, Boston, and most recently, Miami.

He has never played more than 62 games in a season, but his most recent season with the Marlins was his best offensively. In 43 games, Holaday batted .278 and had a .779 OPS. He had only four home runs and 12 RBIs, but he’s never been known as a hitter.

His defense has stood out at times. In 2018, Holaday threw out a league-leading 45 percent of runners trying to steal against him. In 50 games with Miami, 17 of 38 runners were thrown out.

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Last year, Holaday threw out just five of 25 runners, but his career caught-stealing percentage is 30 percent.

That’s the same percentage as incumbent starter, Pedro Severino, although last year it was just 24 percent.

Austin Wynns, who’s played 66 games over the last two seasons, has a 28 percent caught-stealing mark, and Chance Sisco has the weakest of the four, a 23 percent rate.

Severino and Sisco seem to be the leaders to break camp with the team, but Sisco needs to prove he can contribute offensively and defensively.

In 59 games last season, Sisco had a .210 batting average but thanks to a .333 on-base percentage, his OPS climbed to .729. Sisco threw out only five of 30 base-stealers (17 percent) in 2019.

The previous regime invested in Sisco; he was a second-round choice in 2013 and had healthy minor league offensive numbers. Elias and manager Brandon Hyde would like to see him improvement, but they’re not tied to the players they inherited.

Severino wasn’t an Oriole until a few days before spring training ended in 2019. He looked sharp defensively early in the season and finished with a .249 average and a .740 OPS.

In parts of four seasons with the Washington Nationals, Severino didn’t get to play much. Last season, Severino played in a career-high 96 games and had 13 homers and 44 RBIs.

Wynns didn’t play as much in 2019 as he did the year before, hitting .214 in 28 games.

It’s a big year for all four, especially Sisco. As the only left-handed hitter, perhaps he will stay when Rutschman arrives if he improves his all-around game.

Early in  camp, the Orioles can always use extra catchers, and Martin Cervenka, who was re-signed to a minor league contract, should get a look. If Cervenka makes it to the big leagues, he’ll be the first player born in the Czech Republic to make the big time.

Valaika lost on waivers: Infielder Pat Valaika, who was designated for assignment when the Orioles claimed another infielder, Richard Urena, on waivers, was claimed by the Arizona Diamondbacks Thursday.

The Orioles had hoped Valaika would clear and compete for a utility infielder’s job.

Showalter interviews: Former Orioles manager Buck Showalter is a candidate for the suddenly vacant Houston Astros position. Showalter, who lives in Dallas, has been interviewed for the job, according to published reports.

There’s been no talk of Showalter being connected to the other two jobs that came open this week, the Boston Red Sox and the New York Mets, because of the sign-stealing scandal.

Showalter was not interviewed for the Mets position that went to Carlos Beltran last fall.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. CalsPals

    January 17, 2020 at 7:45 am

    Good luck to Buck, is Holaday a legit FA or lower level?…go O’s…

    • Rich Dubroff

      January 17, 2020 at 7:55 am

      Holaday was signed to a minor league contract.

      • CalsPals

        January 17, 2020 at 8:15 am

        thanks….go O’s…

  2. willmiranda

    January 17, 2020 at 10:33 am

    From old memories, I believe Elmer Valo was born in Czechoslovakia, or doesn’t it count since the Czech Republic didn’t exist and maps have been redrawn? Just a quibble, but credit where credit is due. Thanks for the reminder of a good ballplayer.

    • Rich Dubroff

      January 17, 2020 at 10:57 am

      Valo was born in 1921 in Slovakia. Cervenka was born in 1992 in Prague. Thank you for bringing it up. It’s an interesting point, and others will have to decide which is correct should Cervenka make the big leagues, Will.

  3. garyintheloo

    January 17, 2020 at 12:20 pm

    I have had questions about Chance Sisco (great name!) and DJ Stewart since they were drafted. This may indict the scouting and drafting people then who got us into this mess. Despite being a catcher, Chance needs to hit because I do not think his future will be behind the plate.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      January 17, 2020 at 4:21 pm

      Most definitely agree that Chance will have to hit .. especially if he wants to stay behind the plate. I’m of the opinion that he will. Hit that is.

      He’s got a quick sweet swing from the left side of the plate and is not quite 25 years old with only 345 at bats up to this point. What is it they say about needing 1000 at bats to get up to speed? Don’t give up on this kid friends … and don’t get down on him because he was most likely over-hyped.

      I’m not one of you guys that played college ball, much less the 10th grade, and I don’t claim to have been somebody’s scout, but I’ve watched enough baseball game over the past 50 years to recognize a hitter. And Mr. Sisco is a hitter. If he can do it from behind the plate, so much the better. I agree with Garyintheloo and I too have my doubts regarding his backstop skills. BanMo has more than once suggested Sisco being moved to 2nd base, and I’m certainly open to that suggestion. He should at least own an infielders mitt by now.
      But don’t worry, this kid is going to mash sooner than later.

  4. mlbbirdfan

    January 17, 2020 at 4:06 pm

    Teach Mountcastle how to be a Catcher! Boom. Two problems solved. You’re welcome.

    • CalsPals

      January 17, 2020 at 4:10 pm

      Your best prospect will be up 2021 & he’s a catcher, put him at 2nd or 1st, I’d put him at 1st & sit CD…go O’s….

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        January 17, 2020 at 4:26 pm

        Don’t just sit CD … Dump him.

        You’re getting soft CP!! Don’t let up until the tank is empty!!

    • CalsPals

      January 17, 2020 at 6:28 pm

      Totally agree dump him…having a soft moment…my concern is we’ve been saying it for so long, I really can’t believe they haven’t yet, besides, I really don’t want to offend anyone…hahahahaha…just kidding…go O’s…

  5. mcgooding

    January 17, 2020 at 5:42 pm

    Buck’s not an analytics guy. Does he truly fit in with the Astros’ organization? Anyway…good luck to him and the fighting Showalter’s!

  6. ClyOs

    January 17, 2020 at 10:40 pm

    I remember a few years back people were talking about Chance Sisco as the long term replacement for Matt Wieters. Funny how thing change in a few short years.

  7. dlgruber1

    January 17, 2020 at 11:35 pm

    The O’s had better have a handful of capable catchers down the road when Rutschman hits free agency and walks. Nothing ownership has done leads me to believe they’ll pay him when the time comes, especially after getting burned on the Davis signing.

  8. Hallbe62

    January 18, 2020 at 7:29 pm

    Good luck Mr. Showalter !

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