The Baltimore Orioles will have a new look behind home plate this season. Gone is one of the best — when healthy — catchers in the major leagues. Replacing him are two catchers not near the ilk of the former.
Soon-to-be 31 year old Caleb Joseph will man back-up duties — fresh of a less-than-spectacular .174/.216/.197 season. Welington Castillo was brought in on a one-year deal. Castillo is a nice catcher. There is a reason he is on his fourth team since being traded from the Chicago Cubs in 2015, however.
It doesn't matter much. Chance Sisco is the catcher of the future in Baltimore and these two are merely place holders. Don't be surprised if Castillo sees his fifth team in two years by the All Star Break.
Sisco is that good.
The general consensus is that Sisco will make his debut in 2018. It has little to do with his prowess at the plate. Sisco has shown an advanced approach at the plate since the Orioles selected him in the second round of the 2013 MLB Draft.
The now-21 year old left-hander has one of the prettiest swings in the minor leagues. It's smooth and quick, and he has the ability to hit the ball all over the field, as shown in the chart from MLB Farm.
Sisco combines the ability to hit for average with an eye advanced well beyond his years. His ability to draw walks has led to high on base percentages at every stop on the minor league ladder. The .323/.402/.434 career slash line tells that story. When you dig further, his 16.5 percent career strikeout rate paired with an 11 percent walk rate is tantalizing.
Last season at Double-A Bowie, Sisco put together his finest season yet. He slashed .320/.406/.422. He showed nice gap-to-gap power, belting a career best 28 doubles. The homer power has unfortunately yet to develop. Sisco hit just four home runs last year. Our own John Sickels admits that the power hasn't developed yet, but Sisco becoming a 10 to 15 home run caliber hitter isn't out of the question either.
So with that renown plate discipline and the natural ability to both make consistent contact and continually find his way on base, what is holding Sisco back?
Sisco is a righty behind the plate. His arm isn't the issue as FanGraphs lists him with a 55-grade cannon. He has improved each season at throwing out base runners. He topped his career average of 23 percent last year at Bowie when he caught 33 of the 133 attempted base thefts, good for 25 percent. That number is still incrementally lower than Wieters' career 35 percent average.
Sisco's biggest challenge is in his receiving skills, yet even those saw improvements last season. He cut his passed balls from 10 to four, while reducing his errors by 20 percent, committing eight after ten the previous season. He has shown steady improvement each season, despite not being amongst the elite defensive prospects in the game.
It's obvious that Sisco needs everyday play to become the defender the Orioles need behind the plate. He reached Triple-A last season for a four-game sample. and as one of the youngest in the league — a trait he has always carried — he posted a .958 OPS.
Sisco simply doesn't fear anybody at the plate. While Castillo is off playing in the World Baseball Classic instead of acclimating with his new pitching staff, Sisco will presumably get some work with the big league guys.
It makes sense to start him in Triple-A to see that everyday work. Once he proves the senior pitching of the International League is too easy for him — which he will, because that's what he does — he could force the Orioles hand to giving him the reigns as their backstop.
Likely? Not very. But it's not entirely out of the question either.
(both videos courtesy of minorleaguebaseball on YouTube.)