Young catchers Chance Sisco and Austin Wynns can see that there will be opportunity awaiting them when they begin spring workouts in a couple of weeks.
They are the only two catchers on the Orioles’ 40-man major league roster, so it would appear that at least one of them will open the 2019 season in the majors.
Nothing is guaranteed, of course, and they know that. The O’s also invited Andrew Susac, Carlos Perez and Martin Cervenka to camp as nonroster players and new general manager Mike Elias is looking for more catching help in another late-developing free-agent market.
Still, this season is going to be about player development and talent evaluation, so the two young receivers who got a long look last season both are hoping to take a big step forward under the watchful eyes of a new front office and coaching staff.
Sisco’s goal is simple. He wants to win a position that slipped out of his grasp early last season.
“Obviously, I want to be the starting catcher,’’ Sisco said during a media session at FanFest on Saturday. “Who doesn't want to be a starter? I want to be the starting catcher. I want to be back there every day, just want to keep growing, keep learning.”
He was the club’s top catching prospect when he arrived in Sarasota, Fla., last spring and he got his chance to win the starting job early in the season. He got off to a decent start at the plate, but his performance slowly declined to the point where he was sent back to the minors in mid-July and didn’t return until the September roster expansion.
Wynns came up for three weeks in June and didn’t impress at the plate, then returned in late July and looked like he had figured something out. He got regular playing time and finished the season with the best offensive numbers of any of the catchers.
Now, they are motivated to use what they learned last year to grow into dependable big league players.
“Obviously, things didn't go necessarily how I wanted them to go, but the thing that I can look back on is the experience that I got last year,” Sisco said. “There's nothing like that first full season, the ups and downs of the year, being sent down two times — just that experience.”
Perhaps for both, it will be a good thing to be starting fresh in a dramatically reconfigured organization this spring. Sisco can shake off last year’s struggles and Wynns won’t be starting out deep on the depth chart.
Wynn was asked about the challenge of proving himself to a brand-new coaching staff.
“I’m actually looking forward to it,” Wynns said. “It’s going to be a different spring, for sure. We’re going to be working. We’re going to be underrated. We’re going to be mighty and we’re going to show people we’re not messing around.”
“You’ve got to prove yourself every year. You can’t get comfortable. That’s my mentality always. We do have some players that have caught already, but it’s always a learning experience. If you stop learning, what are you doing. You have to get better every day.”
By the time pitcher/catcher workouts begin Feb. 12, there will be be more competition. The Orioles need more than five catchers to handle all the pitchers on the spring roster, so look for some free agents to show up in camp on minor league deals.
Caleb Joseph, who had been in the organization for 12 years before being non-tendered earlier in the offseason, is still out there and there are a several other veterans who are available.
Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.
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