As we inch closer and closer to Opening Day, we'll continue to take a position-by-position look at the Orioles roster options and remaining questions. Now that pitchers and catchers have officially reported to Spring Training, now feels like a good time to take a look behind the plate, where the
As we inch closer and closer to Opening Day, we'll continue to take a position-by-position look at the Orioles roster options and remaining questions. Now that pitchers and catchers have officially reported to Spring Training, now feels like a good time to take a look behind the plate, where the Orioles have a ton of options but no clear answer.
The big question: Can Chance Sisco claim the job?
A top prospect as recently as a year ago, Sisco appeared primed to emerge as a regular after earning a spot on the Opening Day roster last spring. But he struggled mightily at the plate, was demoted twice and then regressed at Triple-A. A career .306 hitter in the Minors prior to 2018, Sisco slashed just .208/.313/.305 across two levels last summer, including .181/.288/.269 in the Majors.
Still just 23, Sisco is the youngest and has the highest ceiling of the six catchers in big league camp, and still qualifies as the favorite to head north with the Orioles by late March. But the O's loaded up on veteran depth this offseason to provide insurance in case he doesn't win the starting job.
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"You never want to struggle, but it was good for me to go through that last year. It gave me a new outlook on some things," Sisco said. "This is an opportunity and kind of a reset."
Another homegrown option: Austin Wynns
The Orioles' 10th-round selection in the 2013 Draft, Wynns spent much of last summer in the Majors as a 27-year-old rookie. He's one of two catchers on the 40-man roster, but profiles as more of a backup type due to his lack of offensive upside. He's far from the only glove-first option the Orioles have in camp.
Looking to separate themselves:
Jesús Sucre ,Carlos Perez ,Martin Cervenka , Andrew Susac
Part of what makes the Orioles' catching situation such an open competition is how similarly all their backstop candidates profile. As is the case with Wynns, the catching group of Susac, Sucre, Perez and Cervenka come with little big league experience and limited offensive upside but solid defensive reputations.
Sucre's delayed arrival in camp due to visa issues complicates things. But once he arrives from Venezuela, he'll sport the most Major League service time (223 games) and strongest throwing arm (average of 84.5 mph on competitive throws, per Statcast™) of the group. Sucre's deal also includes a March 22 opt-out clause in case he does not make the club.
Perez, 28, appeared in 212 games for the Angels, Braves and Rangers since 2015, including 20 for Texas in '18. Susac was outrighted off the 40-man roster this offseason after appearing in nine games last season for the Orioles, while Cervenka, 26, has not played above Double-A.
"We want to get some good defensive catchers in there because we've got young pitchers," Orioles executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias said. "It's just something that we feel is very important, so we've brought in some veteran guys with very strong defensive reputations to come in, but we also have some young catchers, a couple of whom have already played in the big leagues a little but who are still prospects in a sense, and some other guys who provide some depth in the Minor Leagues.
"We've got six guys right now that all bring something interesting to the table, and I could see a number of combinations for that. We're just going to have a competition."
Joe Trezza covers the Orioles for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JoeTrezz.