Chance Sisco and Austin Wynns have long been cast against each other in their climbs toward major league catching roles, and nothing about that has changed as they vie each day in the Sarasota sun to make the Orioles' Opening Day roster to back up Caleb Joseph.
Selected in the same 2013 draft class when the Orioles took four catchers with their first 11 picks and set themselves up for life after Matt Wieters, Sisco was the precocious prep star put at the position to maximize the value in his left-handed bat. Wynns was a senior signing out of Fresno State with a good glove and not much offensive projection.
They're just as different off the diamond as they are on it, but that's mattered little since. Each has made clear in this spring of competition that the other is the reason the Orioles feel they have two major league catching prospects on their hands this spring and going forward.
"We connected, and our relationship just kept growing and growing," Wynns said. "We want to help each other, no matter what, even with the differences. If I can help him out and he can help me out, why not just work together? That's what this game is about."
"I've watched that exact scenario for the past four years," director of player development Brian Graham said. "I've watched two players who have tremendous respect for each other — one was a college player and one was a high school player. And there was never any jealousy. It was always supportive of one another and helping each other. It's true professionalism."
Each made quite a first impression, both of which still ring true today. To Wynns, he recalls telling Sisco just how much potential he saw in him.
Said Wynns: "I told him way back then, 'Dude, you have no idea. You have no idea of what you're capable, what your future holds.' I don't either. None of us do. All we can do is put the work in and whatever happens [happens]. For him, he's special. He's a special kid. Basically, he can control his own destiny."
The reserved Sisco, 23, recalls how at least off the field, Wynns is everything he's not.
"Just his personality — he's kind of an out-there kind of guy," Sisco said. "He's not crazy, but that type of mentality of an always high-energy type. We're kind of complete opposites in that aspect, but very high-energy. We've been on teams together since 2013, and grown together. It's kind of like a partnership rather than playing against each other."
Their partnership began briefly at the end of 2013 for Short-A Aberdeen, and then they spent all but the last week of the 2014 season together at Low-A Delmarva. They began 2015 at High-A Frederick as the catching tandem, with the only separation being a brief midseason spell in Double-A for Wynns and Sisco's call-up for the Eastern League playoff run there.
By then, Wynns had solidified himself as catcher who had a major league future, at least defensively, so he remained in Frederick in 2016 to play regularly while Sisco started again in Bowie. They reunited in major league camp in 2017, and now are sharing space in the Orioles clubhouse with a common goal.
Wynns, 27, has said watching Sisco hit has inspired him to hone his approach and match that level of offensive production. Sisco, whose defense is regularly questioned by scouts and analysts despite his relatively short time at the position, often used Wynns in those early years as an example.
"Obviously, he was a college guy. He's a little bit older," Sisco said. "I was able to watch him and learn some things from him, and if I had any questions, he's obviously caught a little bit longer than I have, so he could give me an answer. It's pretty much the same thing, just different sides of the ball."
They also found that when they played together, the pitchers benefited, too. Because of Wynns' dynamism and Sisco's calm, they related to pitchers differently and saw them react to different situations in different ways. Using each other's observations, they were able to better understand their battery mates.
"It worked well, just because there's two different sides to how we talk to the pitchers and how we talk to each other and help each other out," Sisco said. "When we're talking together about a pitcher, we kind of have two different looks at it. I don't really know how to explain it. It's just one of those things where we're just different personalities that work together."
Recently, the similarities have started to emerge. They shared workout plans at EM Speed and Power Training, with Sisco at a northern California location and Wynns in southern California, working on the mobility and usable strength to stand up to catching a major league season.
And they enter the final week of spring training in nearly a dead heat for a roster spot, with Andrew Susac also in the mix. Wynns is batting .235 with a .997 OPS and two home runs in 17 at-bats. Sisco is batting .364 with a 1.076 OPS and a home run in 22 at-bats.
Among other factors, the Orioles have to decide whether Sisco could use more everyday catching in the minor leagues and whether he can handle a major league role defensively. There's no such question with Wynns, but he's another right-handed bat on a roster full of them and it's unclear when manager Buck Showalter would be willing to play them.
Susac got a late start to his spring because of an infection, and the team isn't sure yet what it has in him. But the good news for all three is that Showalter believes everyone will be needed before the season's over.
"We're going to need both of them this year," Showalter said. "We put this sense of finality on breaking camp, and three weeks into it, it could be completely something different. But we're going to have a catcher injury this year. We're going to need more than three — we're probably going to need four. I hope not, but name a year where that hasn't happened.”
Knowing that, Wynns said all three catchers vying to make the team with Joseph have been able to play worry-free and relaxed this spring.
"All of us will be used," Wynns said. "Everyone has a role, and just do your role and whatever happens, whoever makes the roster [on Opening Day] with the club, just be ready, because you never know. All of us have the opportunity to, and if it's Chance, myself, or Susac — great. Whatever happens, happens. I always have a great mentality going into this. There's no bad blood. No bad blood."