Catcher Pedro Severino was an afterthought coming into the 2019 regular season. The Orioles claimed him off waivers from the Nationals on March 23, at the tail end of spring training. After all of the hype under the Dan Duquette regime, it still felt like Chance Sisco was going to be the guy to get most of the chances to catch.
But when everything shook out and the season was over, Severino had appeared in the most games at catcher for the Orioles and accumulated the most at-bats. It wasn’t even close.
The 26-year-old came to Baltimore with a strong reputation behind the plate. Anything he could offer with the bat would be considered a bonus. In parts of eight minor league seasons in the Nationals system, Severino only hit .246/.294/.348 with a .642 OPS.
He actually held his own at the plate in his first season with the O’s, performing a lot better than most would have predicted at the outset. In 305 at-bats, Severino slashed .249/.321/.420 with 13 doubles, 13 home runs and a .740 OPS. His OPS+ was 95.
Severino showed remarkable consistency through the first four months of the season, with batting averages of .262, .273, .290 and .273. In July, Sevy put up his best OBP of any month (.360) while his SLG dropped big time over the last three months of the season. He faded towards the end of the year, as catchers are wont to do over the course of a long season at a grueling and physically demanding position. Severino’s batting average in August was .197 and in September/October it was .195.
As a group, Orioles catchers hit .227/.307/.380 in 2019.
The second most prominent contributor to that catchers’ batting line was Chance Sisco. Unlike Severino, the home grown Sisco — who was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2013 draft — did not break camp with the big league club.
The young left-handed hitting catcher spent the first couple months of the season in Triple-A, where he hit .292/.388/.530 with 10 doubles, 10 home runs and a .918 OPS. He was promoted to the Orioles on June 3 and played in 59 MLB games overall, hitting .210/.333/.395 with seven doubles, eight home runs, a .729 OPS and an OPS+ of 94.
He struggled to figure out left-handed pitching during his time in the majors this past season, logging a .397 OPS against southpaws while that number jumped to .772 against righties. Furthermore, his bat faded the longer he was with the Birds. Sisco burst onto the scene in June with a 1.033 OPS. His OPS tumbled from that point forward, coming in at .578 in July, .663 in August and .590 in September/October.
Both players’ offense may have faded as the season wore on, but their defense left something to be desired throughout.
In terms of controlling the opponents’ running game, Severino had the edge over Sisco, throwing out 24% of would-be base stealers. Sisco only managed to throw out 17%. The league average was 27%. Severino allowed 10 passed balls in 89 games and Sisco allowed one passed ball in 52 games. Both performed unfavorably in terms of pitch framing, with Sisco logging a -8.5 FRM (catcher framing runs above average) and Severino logging a -8.8 in that department.
While Severino was the more demonstrative of the two behind the plate, statistically, he still did not perform as well as the defensive reputation that preceded him. So he’s got room to grow behind the plate, but still seems ahead of Sisco in that category, who had plenty of mishaps of his own behind the plate with communication and the run game.
Sisco’s personality seems to be the opposite of Severino, with Brandon Hyde making several comments throughout the year that indicated Sisco must be more vocal and seize control as the field general behind the plate. In a rebuild, it would seem more valuable to have an energetic and dynamic presence behind the plate, which would indicate that Severino’s place is a bit more secure, at least in the short term.
But if all goes according to plan, Adley Rutschman will be the everyday catcher for the next great Orioles team. In that scenario, there is potentially room for one of either Severino or Sisco as the backup.
Sisco needs to figure out his defense fast or the discussion above moving him out from behind the plate will grow louder and louder. With that being said, if Sisco can find consistency with the bat, the Orioles are more likely to find a spot for him in the short and long term. Severino seems more likely to stick at catcher, as the starter during the rebuild and then potentially as Adley’s backup when the team is competitive again.
Tomorrow: Richard Bleier