Orioles' Chance Sisco, no longer prospect-eligible, has plenty to prove after lost 2018

Jon Meoli
Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun

With Baseball America’s release of its Orioles top-10 prospects list Wednesday, the team's young talent base came into focus.

Missing from the list, though, was a player who at one time was the team's top prospect and only barely had enough at-bats to exhaust his rookie status in 2018: catcher Chance Sisco.

In 2016, Sisco was the organization's top prospect after he hits .320 with 33 extra-base hits at Double-A Bowie. A year later, he made his major league debut but hit .267 at Triple-A Norfolk and dropped to No. 3 on the prospect rankings, behind Austin Hays and Ryan Mountcastle.

One of the main questions among those remaining in the front office centers around Sisco's future. After what was a lost year at both the major and minor league levels for him in 2018, what can the Orioles expect from the 23-year-old backstop in the future?

While that's always been a question for Sisco, given he has had an advanced bat with a shaky defensive profile. But nothing went right for Sisco this past season after he made the Opening Day roster and was projected to get the big part of a catching platoon with Caleb Joseph from the jump.

Albeit with a high strikeout rate, Sisco hit .255 with four extra-base hits and a .747 OPS in April. But in his first game in May, Sisco was knocked out of the game by an inadvertent forearm to the head from Pedro Álvarez as they tried to catch a foul popup in Anaheim, Calif. From that point on, he scuffled. He had 14 hits in 26 games beginning May 1 for a .194 average, and was sent to Norfolk on June 17.

His throwing had deteriorated in that span, too. After Sisco threw out nine of the first 18 would-be base stealers he encountered at the major league level this year, 17 of the next 18 successfully stole on him. The total package was just too much for the Orioles to accommodate, and though he came back for a few weeks before the All-Star break, Sisco spent most of the rest of the year at Norfolk.

There, he hit .242 with a .696 OPS and just eight extra-base hits in 38 games, without more struggles controlling the running game. Once he returned to the majors in September, he went 0-for-11 in five games before a foul ball caught his mask and cut his chin. He didn’t play after Sept. 16 because of a possible concussion.

It was a nightmare season for him on a lot of levels, and leaves a lot of questions about his future. Had Sisco been eligible for the rankings, it would have been fascinating to get a better read from scouts and Orioles officials on his season and what they make of it. Many have wondered aloud whether he'd end up a big league catcher or his future would be elsewhere on the diamond. Those questions won't quiet this offseason.

But Sisco has always been an offense-first player who put in the requisite work on defense, but his value came from his bat over all else. In a year where that wasn't really there, and he had to deal with all the pressures of running a veteran major league staff at the beginning of the season, it's easy to see how things got away from him.

That might not be much consolation to the Orioles as they look at him, Austin Wynns, Caleb Joseph and Andrew Susac, and wonder what the catcher position will look like going forward.

High school shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. is the big name being bandied about as next year's top pick, but catchers Adley Rutschman (Oregon State) and Shea Langeliers (Baylor) are top-of-the-draft talents as well who could save the Orioles some bonus money to spread around elsewhere. There are plenty of positions of need, but the Orioles will look hard at the future of the catcher position going forward, and will want to see if Sisco can still be a part of it as they move into the next phase of their rebuild.

jmeoli@baltsun.com

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