Orioles in the AFL: Young Sisco among talented company
One of eight Baltimore participants, club's No. 8 prospect working to keep up hot bat, improve defense
The Baltimore Orioles' farm system is well represented in this year's Arizona Fall League, with seven of the club's eight participants ranking among its top 30 prospects.
None of them, however, are younger than Chance Sisco.
"It's definitely a privilege being out here and being selected to play in the Fall League," said the 20-year-old catcher. "Coming into it, I'm just open-minded and doing what I can to get better."
The Orioles' No. 8 prospect has done nothing but hit since being selected in the second round of the 2013 Draft out of Santiago (Calif.) High.
After batting .371 in 31 games during his 2013 pro debut in the Rookie Gulf Coast League, Sisco claimed the South Atlantic League batting title the following year in his full-season debut, batting .340/.406/.448 as a 19-year-old in 114 games at Class A Delmarva.
The Orioles challenged Sisco this past season with an assignment to Class A Advanced Frederick, where he was one of the Carolina League's youngest everyday players on Opening Day. The left-handed-hitting backstop was anything but overmatched at the more advanced level, batting .308/.387/.422 in 75 games for the Keys despite spending more than on a month on the disabled list during the first half. Sisco's season concluded with a promotion to Double-A Bowie in mid-August, where he served as the team's starting catcher during the Eastern League playoffs.
However, for as good as Sisco's bat has been in the early stages of his career, his defense has always left something to be desired. The 6-foot-2, 193-pounder threw out 25.3 percent of attempted basestealers in 74 games behind the plate this past season -- a slight improvement compared to his career caught-stealing rate of 22.1 percent. Needless to say, he's working diligently to refine his catch-and-throw skills in the Fall League.
"The biggest challenge so far has been my footwork and throwing to second," Sisco said. "I've definitely made strides with that this year, and I've even made some strides since the All-Star break. There's a lot that comes with catching, and you just have to be ready for it and open-minded."
Sisco also has benefitted from having two-time Gold Glove Award winner Matt Wieters in the organization, from whom he can seek advice.
"I was with Wieters when I rehabbed," he said. "Just being around him, working with him and picking his brain a little bit -- having a guy like that at the big league level definitely helps."
Despite the challenges ahead of him, Sisco is confident that he's in a good place heading into 2016.
"The last month I spent in Bowie and [the Arizona Fall League] have prepared me for what I expect for next season."
Orioles pitchers in the Fall League
• Dylan Bundy, RHP - The Orioles' No. 2 prospect (No. 64 overall) appeared bound for greatness after reaching the Major Leagues as a 19-year-old in his first full professional campaign. That, of course, was before he missed the entire 2013 season following Tommy John surgery, and then was limited to only 63 1/3 innings during the 2014-15 seasons due to lat and shoulder problems. Now 22, Bundy -- who hasn't pitched in a game since May 21 -- will look to make up for the lost time and get back on track in the AFL, with his first start for the Peoria Javelinas scheduled for next week.
• Jason Garcia, RHP - Acquired from the Astros -- who selected him in the Rule 5 Draft -- during the offseason, the No. 16 prospect made Baltimore's Opening Day roster but spent a majority of the first half on the disabled list with right shoulder tendinitis. He ultimately appeared in 21 games out of the Orioles' bullpen, registering a 4.25 ERA in 29 2/3 innings.
• Donnie Hart, LHP - The 2013 27th-rounder is pitching in the AFL after a breakout season in which he went 6-2 with 13 saves and a stellar 1.49 ERA in 54 1/3 innings (49 appearances) across three levels, finishing the year in Double-A.
• Jon Keller, RHP - Keller, the Orioles' No. 15 prospect, had his 2014 full-season debut cut short due to an oblique injury but returned this season to log 76 1/3 innings between Frederick and Bowie. Although the right-hander didn't pound the strike zone as consistently as he did the previous year, he still showed a lively mid-90s fastball and generated plenty of ground balls.
• Tanner Scott, LHP - The No. 21 prospect's arm strength is among the best in this year's Fall League -- three of the seven pitches he threw on Thursday night against Salt River were clocked at 99 mph -- but he lacks a consistent secondary pitch and at times will lose his feel for the strike zone. That being said, the 21-year-old southpaw did pile up 60 strikeouts in 42 1/3 innings between Class A Short Season Aberdeen and Delmarva.
Orioles hitters in the Fall League
• Adrian Marin, SS - A third-round Draft pick in 2012 out of Gulliver Prep (Fla.) High, Marin, the Orioles' No. 25 prospect, is at least an average defender at shortstop with above-average speed on the basepaths. However, his cumulative batting line of .235/.279/.342 in 229 games at Frederick over the past two seasons highlights his limited upside at the plate.
• Mike Yastrzemski, OF - Ranked as the club's No. 13 prospect, Yastrzemski took a step back in the Eastern League this past season, batting .246/.316/.372 in 128 games for Bowie. The 25-year-old left-handed hitter doesn't offer much over-the-fence power and has some swing-and-miss to his game, but his hit tool and defensive versatility could help him carve out a role as a fourth outfielder in the Major Leagues.