Orioles Preview - Page 7 - 5 Young Orioles To Judge 2019 By (2)

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5 Young Orioles To Judge 2019 By (2)

CHANCE SISCO

 

Sisco was the Orioles’ top prospect in 2017 when he made his major league debut that September. Even as a bat-first catcher who carried pretty significant defensive questions and entered Opening Day in 2018 as a young 23-year-old, he entered the season with a pretty significant role carved out for him in the majors.

 

No matter the reason — whether it was the pressures of working with a struggling veteran rotation, the fact that his slumping bat carried into the defensive portion of his game and vice versa, or the crush of losing on a young player on a team with much higher expectations — Sisco ended up under water and swept away into a lost season.

 

He was optioned to the minors twice, and once he returned in September, he seldom played. But Sisco came into camp with a new mindset and said he learned from the struggles. He used his filled-out frame to crush the ball early in spring training.

 

Hyde and his staff won’t be evaluating him on spring stats, though. They want to see the Sisco who hit at every step in the minors, but they also want to see him take charge as an on-field leader with a pitching staff that’s far younger than it was a year ago, as an extension of the coaches from the dugout. They’ll be far more encouraged by what they saw early in spring on that front than by the offense.

 

Sisco, 24, is most prominent in this group because the circumstances for him are almost identical to last year, with two differences: the year of experience he survived, and the coaching staff. Last year, he worked alongside longtime friend and teammate Austin Wynns and had veteran Caleb Joseph to show him the ropes. Now, it’s Wynns and veteran Jesús Sucre with him in that mix.

 

Secondly, part of the appeal of having him in the majors in 2018 was the presence of bench coach John Russell, a well-regarded catching instructor who along with minor league instructor Don Werner were credited with helping the likes of Matt Wieters, Joseph and Nick Hundley improve behind the plate. This year, he gets the former catcher Hyde and Russell’s replacement in everything but title, major league field coordinator and catching instructor Tim Cossins.

 

Perhaps their high-energy approach — something Sisco made clear early in camp was making a difference for him — will be a factor in helping Sisco with the technical work behind the plate required for him to catch in the majors. He had the second-slowest home-to-second pop time on stolen-base attempts in the big leagues last year, according to MLB’s Statcast data. Some improvement on that front and something close to the high contact, high-on-base offensive profile he showed in the minors will give the Orioles a potential longtime catcher, and someone for Hyde and Cossins to help grow at a position they know well.