Since being selected in the second round of the 2013 MLB Draft as an 18-year-old, Chance Sisco has been on the fast track towards the major leagues thanks to his sweet left-handed swing and mature batting approach. The young catcher came into 2017 having hit .363, .340, .297, and .317 in his first four professional seasons, respectively, and all while playing at an age significantly younger than his average competition.
That trend continued this season as the Orioles’ top prospect started the year in Norfolk at the age of 22. Without any of the team’s other top-20 prospects playing for the Tides, all eyes were squarely on the young backstop.
Sisco started slow in his first extended taste of AAA, and a month and a half into the season, Sisco’s was slashing just .230/.325/.330. That .655 OPS in mid-May was definitely low enough to freak out some pessimistic Orioles fans, but it didn’t take long for Sisco to heat up. 30 days later, the 22-year-old had his average all the way up .282 and steadily played around there over the season’s final two and a half months.
Playing every day in a park notorious for preventing the long ball, Chance Sisco finished his year in Norfolk with a career high seven home runs to go along with 23 doubles. In total, Sisco slashed .267/.340/.395 for career lows in each category. All things considered, it was still an impressive season at the plate for a young catching prospect.
Sisco’s bat has never been an issue, but his defense continues to need some refinement, particularly when it comes to holding runners. In AAA, Sisco only caught 21 would-be base stealers out of a ridiculous 93 attempts. As sweet as his swing may be, he will need to throw out more runners to stick at catcher in the majors. Without elite arm strength for his position, Sisco will need to rely on tightening up his fundamentals as soon as possible.
Even with his struggles controlling the base paths, the O’s took a chance on Sisco and called him up to the big league squad once rosters expanded in September. Once on the Orioles’ roster, most fans in Baltimore got their first glimpses at who they hope will be the team’s future catcher, and the city’s most famous Sisco since “The Thong Song” topped the charts in 2000.
Despite having some challenges adjusting to pitching in AAA, Sisco had no such issues after making the jump to the major leagues. If we have some fun with the small sample size, Sisco led the Orioles in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage among batters with more than 15 plate appearances.
Realistically, 22 plate appearances is not enough to make any sort of definitive statement about Sisco’s bat, but the early signs were encouraging. His six hits included two doubles and his first two big league home runs. With three walks as well, Sisco’s slash line of .333/.455/.788 was reminiscent of Trey Mancini’s debut at the end of 2016.
Defensively, Sisco failed to throw out a single runner in Baltimore on five attempts. When it came to advanced stats involving framing, he wasn’t too great in that category either. In fact, he was dead last in the MLB on a per-game basis according to StatCorner. On the bright side, Sisco definitely knows what he needs to work on this offseason.
Going forward, Sisco seems to be in line to slot in as a left-handed platoon partner with Caleb Joseph and eventually an every day role. However, as far as next season is concerned, a lot will depend on what improvements Chance Sisco is able to make defensively between now and Opening Day 2018.
Considering the Orioles’ manager, it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise to see Sisco head back to Norfolk next spring to continue working on his defense behind the plate.
Sisco has only been playing catcher now for five years, so the hope is there that he still has a lot of room for improvement. His bat appears to be ready now, but catcher is too important defensively to be playing a liability at the position.
All eyes will be on the team’s top prospect once again next spring in Sarasota. Hopefully Sisco is able to make the required adjustments, because catchers with his skill set offensively are rare in today’s MLB.