Sisco and Stewart face an uncertain future with the Orioles -

Rich Dubroff

Sisco and Stewart face an uncertain future with the Orioles

Photo Credit: Joy R. Absalon

The 2020 season was an important one for catcher Chance Sisco and outfielder DJ Stewart. It didn’t turn out the way they had hoped.

Sisco and Stewart were highly touted draft choices from the Dan Duquette regime. Sisco was a second-round choice in the 2013 draft and hit well in the minors.

But when Sisco made it to the major leagues in September 2017, he struggled. Sisco did hit .333 (6-for-18) when he first came up. But in 2018, he hit .181 in 63 games, mostly in the first half of the season. He threw out 31 percent of runners who tried to steal against him (13 of 42), but spent much of the second half at Triple-A Norfolk.

Sisco had a strong spring training in 2019, but when Pedro Severino was claimed on waivers just before spring training ended, Sisco was sent back to Triple-A.

He returned in early June and hit well at first; in 19 games, he hit .283. But after the All-Star break, Sisco hit only .168 with three RBIs in 40 games. Sisco’s throwing also regressed in 2019; he threw out just five of 30 (17 percent) basestealers.

This season, Sisco began strongly. In his first 11 games through August 12th, Sisco had a .364 average and a 1.245 OPS.

By the end of last month, Sisco’s average had plunged from .364 to .241. In September, Sisco hit just .175 (7-for-40) with an RBI, and caught just 3 of 16 (19 percent) runners attempting to steal.

One thing that Sisco has always done well is draw walks. He ended with a .214 batting average and a .364 on-base average because of 17 walks and six hit by pitches. Sisco’s on-base average trailed only José Iglesias  (.400) and Ryan Mountcastle (.386).

Stewart, who was the Orioles’ first-round draft choice in 2015, chosen 25th, 11 spots ahead of Mountcastle, made it to the majors in September 2018 and hit .250 in 17 games.


After a hot May for Norfolk, Stewart was set for an extended look last season but in his seventh game with the Orioles, he suffered a left ankle injury that initially cost him two months and later required offseason surgery.

In 2019, Stewart hit .238 in 44 games with four homers and 15 RBIs.

Had the season started on time, Stewart would have begun the year on the injured list because his ankle prevented him from playing by the time spring training ended on March 12 because of Covid-19.

Stewart began with 17 hitless at-bats, which included a trip back to the alternate site at Bowie. On September 5th, Stewart hit two home runs, and eventually hit six in six games, bringing his average up to .278.

But from September 12th through season’s end, Stewart hit only .135  (7-for-52), closing with a .193 average with seven homers and 15 RBIs. Stewart also has shown a discerning eye — his OBP was .355 — but he struggled on defense.

The Orioles have invested a lot in Sisco and Stewart and, as a former scout, executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias knows how important high draft picks are and wants to give them every chance to succeed.

In June 2020, the Orioles selected catcher Adley Rutschman with their first overall selection and whether his debut comes late in 2021 or in 2022, he’s going to need a backup, and a left-handed hitting catcher wouldn’t be the worst idea.

But Sisco is going to have to show more to stick around, as is Stewart. Next season, Mountcastle, Austin Hays, Cedric Mullins and Anthony Santander will need playing time, and Stewart might have to fend off rookie Yusniel Diaz, who isn’t likely to begin the year with the Orioles.

Stewart is also a left-handed hitter. Mullins and Santander are switch-hitters.

It will be interesting to see if Sisco and Stewart are back with the Orioles next spring—or if one is moved.

Rutschman won’t start the season with the Orioles, so it wouldn’t be surprising if Severino and Sisco return to begin the year, or if the Orioles let Severino go because he’s heading for arbitration.

As Elias said in his season-ending availability, the economics of the offseason are uncertain, and the Orioles might need to avoid going to arbitration with some of their eligible players.

Sisco’s ability to get on base continues to be a plus, but he’ll have to do much better to stay around once Rutschman comes to Baltimore.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB



  1. Mikepete73

    September 30, 2020 at 8:49 am

    dj Stewart’s. Obp and Ops shows me he had a good year. .avg can be such an overrated stat. The game today is all about getting on base and hitting hrs which he did.

  2. Baltimore Castaway

    September 30, 2020 at 8:53 am

    Chance Cisco will likely wind up being a back-up Catcher unless and until he shows that he can hit with consistency. He shows potential, but struggles still to demonstrate his talent.

    DJ Stewart took a long time to show that he belongs in the Major Leagues and he still doesn’t show the consistency needed to be a Major League talent.

    Both of these young men are at-risk of being eclipsed by other young players matriculating through the Orioles Minor League System.

    It’s not a huge issue at this point. Not every highly drafted player makes it in this crazily difficult sport. It’s also a good problem that others are showing signs of being better than them.

  3. Orioles20

    September 30, 2020 at 9:30 am

    I don’t see where Stewart fits when Elias deems Diaz ready. Stewart has had plenty of opportunities to figure it out and he hasn’t. He has been passed by guys like hays and Santander. I think Sisco until Adley is ready. The catching is situation is not as deep so there aren’t very many options so Sisco probably gets another shot.

  4. Bhoffman1

    September 30, 2020 at 10:06 am

    I feel Sisco did not perform like we all wanted him to especially in the last month or so. I put some blame on the way Hyde managed him. The kid needs confidence knowing if he goes 0 for 4 he will be out there the next day. Hyde did not instill that in him by the irregular way he played him . He did play DJ regularly and you failed to mention his poor fielding again. DJ can be a DH type which I feel we don’t need but he’s not a regular outfielder especially when Diaz a multi tooled player arrives.

    • Rich Dubroff

      September 30, 2020 at 10:08 am

      Right you are, Bruce. Three errors in 30 games far too high.

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        September 30, 2020 at 5:19 pm

        Rich, I remember commenting on not understanding why everyone thought Stewart was such a poor outfielder and not much of an athlete. Then the BRR jinx struck. Seems like the next day he misplayed a ball off the outfield wall, and then a day or 2 later, he booted one in the right field corner if memory serves me. I don’t remember the 3rd. I think more than the number of errors he made, it was the bumbling nature of 2 of the errors that unfairly put the “can’t field” onus right back on him. Personally, I don’t believe he’s as bad as those two plays made him appear. He’s got plenty of speed, and his arm appeared more than strong enough for me not to want him moved as of yet.

        Now he can hit … but can he become more consistent? That’s my question regarding the guy.


    September 30, 2020 at 10:07 am

    If a young O’s prospect improves, it is due to Elias’s great player development program. If he doesn’t improve it is the player’s fault.
    It is “heads I win, tails you lose” for Elias.

    • CalsPals

      September 30, 2020 at 1:01 pm

      Two thumbs up…go O’s…

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      September 30, 2020 at 5:29 pm

      VT … you are spot on.

      Development = Experience+Maturation. It’s pretty simple … no analytics required.

  6. Bancells Moustache

    September 30, 2020 at 10:40 am

    The two of these guys actually benefited from the Covid craziness. 2020 should have been a make or break year for both of them, but with the stunted nature of the season it may have bought them some more time to prove themselves. Sisco defensively doesn’t look like a major league catcher. Stewart doesn’t even look like a collegiate outfielder with the glove.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      September 30, 2020 at 5:36 pm

      I think you’re being a bit hard on both BanMo.

      I thought Sisco version 2020 was night and day better than 2019 behind the plate. Grant you this though, he couldn’t throw my COPD suffering butt out stealing.

      And while it may be true that Stewart had a few Jose Canseco moments, he wasn’t that bad in the vast majority of games.

  7. NormOs

    September 30, 2020 at 10:42 am

    With an outfield consisting of Santander, Hays, Mountcastle, and Mullins, and hopefully the return of Trey to play 1st base, there doesn’t seem to be room for a poor defensive outfielder and sopadic hitter in Stewart. Also, I agree that Chance hasn’t really had a chance. Finally, the O’s are going to have to deal for a MLB 3rd baseman, not Rule 5 or the ever present “waiver wire”. I’d like to see them keep Iglacias and Alberto’s hitting may be enough to offset any defensive problems he might have.

  8. Phil770

    September 30, 2020 at 10:44 am

    Rich, thanks for the balanced and Insightful comments on Stewart and Sisco. I think if their fielding is only going to be adequate, then they must hit with consistency and well above .200. I actually think Sisco should try another position. Catcher is very demanding physically and mentally. As for Stewart, he will need to respond like Mullins, otherwise, he will be beaten out by other players.

    I still do not understand the constant criticism of Elias.

  9. Orial

    September 30, 2020 at 11:52 am

    Agree with Phil–don’t understand the venom towards Elias. Team needed a new direction and he’s the chosen one. Give him a little time. We’ll see. As far as Sisco/Stewart–terrible picks. One more year for each. Yes OBP is a nice stat but it doesn’t drive runs home. Sisco’s sweep tags were his highlights. Duquette has given us Mountcastle and some fine pitching prospects but Sisco/Stewart we can pass on.

  10. Hallbe62

    September 30, 2020 at 1:44 pm

    Pull the hook on Stewart but not Sisco just yet. Give Diaz a look see.

  11. Boog Robinson Robinson

    September 30, 2020 at 5:27 pm

    I think that as long as Sisco improves his catching, he has a place on my ball club. Rutschman or no. Everybody on this sight knows I’m in the bag for the guy. He may never become the big stick I thought he would, but yet again, he just may. He needs to be given the reigns next year .. pre-Rutschman … catching 3 out of 4, and he needs to hit every stinking day. Elias and Hyde certainly haven’t done this kid any favors. I’m tired of hearing how Elias is responsible for “developing” all of Duquette’s 2020 success stories, while not hearing one iota about how he’s screwed a once promising slugger by holding him back. If Sisco doesn’t hit for us, I promise you, he’ll hit for someone else.

    • Phil770

      September 30, 2020 at 8:01 pm

      Now I get it it. You are an anti-sabre metrics guy. Okay. Dan Duquette’s way was the best way. Anything that goes wrong is PA or Buck. Thanks for clearing it up.. I am older than you, but I do believe that changing with the times is needed. You blame PA for all of DD’s mistakes, I blame DD. BTW, Nelson Cruz is still paying at a high level. Nick is still solid. Meanwhile DD mortgaged the franchise trying to replace them.

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        October 1, 2020 at 1:08 pm

        So who said that Duquetted didn’t want Cruz back? And do you really think it was Duquette that caved to the fan backlash to letting Cruz go? Hmmmmm……I’m going with Angelos on that one. And how does letting Markakis go add to ‘mortgaging the future’?

        And just how did you come up with idea that I’m an anit-sabre metics guy? What in this post gave you that idea?

        Me thinks you assume too much …

        • Phil770

          October 1, 2020 at 2:22 pm

          It was reported at the time that DD didn’t want to go for the 4th year, just like he didn’t want to go 4 years for Markakis. At the time, it was also reported that PA would never sign a pitcher to more than 3 years – and DD signed Ubaldo; after that four years was up, it was again reported that PA would never sign another FA pitcher for big money for more than 3 years. Then DD signed Cobb for 4-years and $57M. Also, when DD traded Gausman to Atlanta for Int’l pool money, it turned out that it was not usable, reflecting a lack of understanding in the Int’l market. He also signed a pitcher from the Korean league without going through proper protocol, the O’s were somehow reprimanded, I don’t recall the details. I am not saying DD was a bad GM, but I do say that he spent a lot more money and gave up assets to replace both Cruz and Nick M. I do think that is on him. The fact that you don’t agree is fine. Elias inherited a mess at the Major League level and minor league level when he arrived, DD did not, McPhail provided a team that was more ready to compete than the one that DD (and Buck) left Elias. Frankly, I think the pitching improvement techniques introduced by Elias have had a favorable impact. The hitting techniques were not deployed his 1st year, but were planned for this year, and I understand used at Bowie. PA has been in failing health for a number of years, which led to the front office disfunction that included Dan, Buck, Brady A and probably the sons – not to mention the MASN mess. My overall point is that not every failure is because of PA, nor every success on DD. Stay safe!

  12. CGarcia

    September 30, 2020 at 5:43 pm

    If both guys are still playing a good amount of games in 2022, something went terrible wrong. Too many upside players in the minors to see that happening. Hoping a few them outside the top 100 prospects like Hernaiz, Adam Hall, Westburg and other 2020 draftees make a major leap.

    • dlgruber1

      September 30, 2020 at 8:38 pm

      I couldn’t agree more. Just because they’ve “made an investment” in these guys doesn’t mean you hold others back who will outperform them. Of the two I believe Sisco has the best upside but how much he shows before the messiah arrives remains to be seen. Stewart does have a good OBP but walking isn’t driving in runs. The O’s simply have too many good outfielders to justify continuing on with DJ.

    • CalsPals

      October 2, 2020 at 9:39 am

      They made an investment in CD…go O’s…

  13. WorldlyView

    September 30, 2020 at 7:11 pm

    I thought this was the most important sentence in Rich’s article: “…the economics of the offseason are uncertain, and the Orioles might need to avoid going to arbitration with some of their eligible players.” You mentioned Severino as one of the players we might not be able to afford. Are there others about to be eligible for arbitration who should be able to get a better deal with another team? How low does the payroll have to go (excluding CD and Cobb)? If belt-tightening is the order of the day, we seem to be far away from the time when management shifts its priority to employing the not inexpensive players who can deliver a winning team. Next season, the waiver wire might again be the source of new “talent.” If the promising prospects in the pipeline don’t deliver soon, we may be depending on the waiver wire in 2022 as well.

    • CalsPals

      September 30, 2020 at 7:25 pm

      Severino showed his value for the season, he really was disappointing to me, if I’d have known how his whole season was going to go I would’ve started Sisco the whole season to better evaluate him, Sisco has a better upside, let severino walk, on a side note, I took a fair amount of ribbing for the cardboard fans in the stands, anyone else notice EVERY hosting playoff team I’ve seen has them, it’s all about details, top to bottom…go O’s…

    • Rich Dubroff

      October 1, 2020 at 8:41 am

      Steve, I’ll be discussing the arbitration-eligible players in Friday’s blog. We don’t know what the payroll will be for 2021, but they’re not going to be spending money liberally. Few franchises are. Expect many players to be non-tendered in the coming weeks.

      • NormOs

        October 1, 2020 at 3:20 pm

        “They’re not going to be spending money liberally”? Two years ago Genius 1 made the stupidest statement of all, “We have no interest in signing any of the top FIFTY (50) Free Agents” You can look it up. Maybe they’ll still sell $25.00 tickets for $2.50 but the O’s are still not interested in any of the Top 50 FAs. Is there a line in Elias’s book that says “You got to spend to make”?

    • CalsPals

      October 1, 2020 at 3:44 pm

      Old business rule of thumb, takes money to make money…go O’s…

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        October 2, 2020 at 5:51 pm

        Covid saved Elias and the franchise the indignity of the 6000 attendance nights that surely will manifest next year with the quality of the team being what it is. Maybe trying to win some games will get the fans to return> I know … that’s just crazy talk. Who cares how many games we win now? It’s all about 2022 ‘eh boys?

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