Baltimore Orioles: Cautious optimism surrounding Chance Sisco in 2020

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 07: Chance Sisco #15 of the Baltimore Orioles at bat during the game against the Texas Rangers at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 7, 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 07: Chance Sisco #15 of the Baltimore Orioles at bat during the game against the Texas Rangers at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 7, 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images) /
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The Baltimore Orioles have seen a lot of production out of their catchers in 2020, including former top prospect Chance Sisco.

Once considered the top prospect in the Baltimore Orioles farm system, catcher Chance Sisco has frustratingly yet to put it all together at the major league level.

Now, Sisco is no longer considered the future primary backstop in Baltimore. That honor now goes to 2019 top overall draft pick Adley Rutschman, one of the most highly-anticipated prospects not just in Baltimore, but in all of baseball.

Sisco still has the tools and upside to be a contributor at the major league level and can become a reliable backup to Rutschman, once the former Oregon State standout arrives in the majors. Talking about backup catchers isn’t the most exciting thing in the world, but Sisco can be an exciting player at times.

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As of August 16th, Baltimore Orioles catchers currently lead all of baseball with a combined 1.2 fWAR, yes, those Orioles who lead the American League with a .266 team batting average and currently hold a playoff spot with their 12-8 record.

Sisco has been used sparingly behind the plate, appearing in just 12 of the team’s 20 games, but he has made the most of his at-bats.

The 25-year-old former second-round pick is hitting .333 with a .515 on-base percentage and .333 ISO through first 12 appearances. Four of his eight hits have gone for extra-bases (two home runs) and his eight walks rank second on the team, despite not being a regular starter.

His struggles behind the plate have been well documented over the years and despite the yearly reports of Sisco improving his defense, he’s still a bat-first catcher who doesn’t offer much defensive value. Unfortunately, his noted offensive tools have yet to shine through.

Sisco was a .305 hitter throughout his minor league career, but has just barely stayed above the Mendoza-Line in the majors, hitting .211 across parts of four seasons with a 33.4% strikeout rate. Not great for an offensive backstop.

The Baltimore Orioles have seen hot stretches from Sisco before, only to have them end in long slumps and demotions back to the minor leagues. They are hoping 2020 is going to be a different story, but there’s been one glaring problem…at-bats.

Pedro Severino, the team’s primary starter behind the plate, is hitting .304 with a .371 OBP and ranks third on the team in home runs with three. The former top catching prospect in the Nationals system is hot and manager Brandon Hyde isn’t going to take him out of the lineup anytime soon.

The Orioles could move Sisco to designated hitter, but there’s a big logjam there with the team continuing to give Chris Davis starts and the hot-hitting Renato Nunez splitting his time between first base and DH to keep him in the lineup.

Baltimore knows what they have in Davis and with Rio Ruiz having a tremendous start to the year both at the plate and in the hot corner and Nunez earning himself regular at-bats, the Orioles have an easy fix that would not only improve their lineup but allow them to evaluate Sisco’s offensive performance.

Benching Chris Davis, keeping Renato Nunez at first base, and splitting catching/DH duties between Sisco and Severino seems like a logical and productive solution, and it looks like that could be happening. With the Orioles in a position to compete for a playoff spot in 2020, and that notion becoming more real by the day, Davis has found himself on the bench more and more recently, including three of the last four games.

This opening could become a prime opportunity for Chance Sisco.

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Until the Baltimore Orioles can find more playing time for Sisco, he will need to continue to make the most of his at-bats and fans can continue to remain cautiously optimistic about his future, emphasis on cautiously.