The now-19-year-old Chance Sisco was a second round pick by the Baltimore Orioles in the 2013 amateur draft as an 18-year-old out of Santiago High School in Corona, California. The left-handed hitting young man only switched to catching as a senior in high school. He was a shortstop up until that point.
It was bit of a shock when he was taken. The Orioles had just selected two high schoolers ahead of him, Hunter Harvey and Josh Hart, and Sisco was projected to go in the fifth or sixth round by Baseball America. They did manage to save some money, signing the catcher for $785,000. It has been indicated that $913,300 was the slot value for the 61st overall pick.
After playing for both the Gulf Coast Orioles and the Aberdeen Ironbirds in 2013, Sisco spent his entire 2014 campaign in Salisbury with the Delmarva Shorebirds of the South Atlantic League. The average age of batters there this season was 21.5 years. With Sisco's birthday being Feb. 24, 1995, that would make him roughly two years younger than the average. So, we could understand some struggles.
However, he doesn't need any excuses. With the Shorebirds he slashed .340/.406/.448, winning the batting title for the league. He cleared the runner-up, 22-year-old Willians Astudillo of the Lakewood Blueclaws (Phillies), by seven points. On top of that, he added five home runs, 27 doubles and 63 RBI. He stole just one base, so it's safe to assume that, like most other catchers, he doesn't run exceptionally well.
That .340 batting average helps to make his .406 on-base percentage look very impressive. He walked in 8.8% of his at-bats, which is a fairly pedestrian number for a Major League player, but this guy is 19 years old. Granted, he is playing against a lower level of competition. The tendency for most young players is to swing away. He only struck out 16.5% of the time. Again, it's not a crazy number, but nice to see from such a young man. So nice, in fact, that Baseball America dubbed him to have the "best strike zone judgement" in the league. Again, he is 19.
Defensively, he has not stood out quite as much. As mentioned above, he has not always been a catcher. So, he is likely to incur some growing pains. In a piece from MASN's Steve Melewski, the Orioles director of player development Brian Graham explained that there is room for improvement in that area of Sisco's game.
"His defense is getting better," Graham said. "He's receiving, blocking and calling good games and showing leadership. He's still only 19. For a 19-year-old to do what he is doing at that level is very impressive."
He later added his thoughts on Sisco's control of the run game.
"It's not arm strength necessarily," Graham said. "It's the mechanics of receiving and the release and accuracy, it's a combination. He's done a good job but there is room for improvement."
On the 20-80 scale that scouts use to grade prospects, MLB.com gives Sisco a 50 for both his arm and defense. Not bad for someone in their second season at one of the more demanding positions on the diamond.
His past as a shortstop opens up the possibility of moving positions should catching become too much for the California native. However, that is something that is likely to be kept on the back-burner, according to Graham.
"Way too early," he said. "Caleb Joseph is catching in the big leagues at 27, doing a good job. I would be cautious with thinking that about a catcher at such a young age. Absolutely fine with where he is on defense right now."
The consensus around the Web seems to be that, offensively, he profiles the best as a catcher. If his defense improves, he could be a solid Major League gap-to-gap hitter who puts a ball out of the park occasionally. His foot speed may keep him away from the hot corner at third base and, while his bat is nice, he doesn't profile as a real power threat that is normally seen across the field at first base.
For now, he is the top catching prospect in the O's system. Both MLB.com and Baseball America ranked him as the O's 10th ranked prospect entering the season. MLB.com now has him up to number three behind Dylan Bundy and Harvey.
The 2014 season was good to Sisco. He is ahead of schedule in his development with the bat, but his defense appears to be a lagging a bit, perhaps. Nonetheless, he has outplayed low-A Delmarva. A start to next season in Frederick with the Keys seems likely. The Orioles won't rush him, but he seems poised to force their hand. Follow him on Twitter @chance_sis12.
What do you expect from Sisco? When would you like to see him in the Majors? Should he move positions? Be sure to let us know in the comments down below or tweet me @_TyYoung.