Most years during spring training, a team’s fan base is buzzing with excitement. No matter how the team fared the year prior, fans focus on what can go right this season. “If what’s his name bounces back,” “If the lefty can control his fastball,” “If he could just stay healthy.” Hope springs eternal...
This year is unique for Baltimore. With the team’s fate all but sealed, there was no reason for delusion. No one tricked themselves into thinking the Orioles would be competitive. That being said, we’re all still here.
The hiring of Executive Vice President Mike Elias and skipper Brandon Hyde was the story of the offseason, and the pair remained the story once spring began. With new guys calling the shots, certain things became unpredictable. Would DJ Stewart or Trey Mancini take left field? Would Alcides Escobar start at short? Can the Orioles carry three Rule-5 guys all year?
All of these conversations took place at one point, and yet, none have come to fruition. Stewart began the year in Norfolk, Escobar failed to make the team, and Richie Martin is the only Rule-5 guy left on the roster. However, the biggest surprise came behind the plate.
At the beginning of March, many expected Chance Sisco to be the Orioles starting catcher. The 24-year-old struggled a year ago, but the Orioles second round draft choice in 2013 appeared to be the prime example of someone who might benefit from the new staff. Sisco hit only .181 in 63 MLB games last year, but his bat has always been held in high regard. With the Orioles staring down another losing season, what did the club have to lose?
Instead, the Orioles new brass decided Sisco would benefit from more seasoning on the farm. At 24, he’s still below the average age at Triple-A, and could benefit from playing close to every day. Sisco will look to bring the bat back up to par, and improve his defense to a Major League level.
With Sisco in the minors, Austin Wynns appeared lined up to start Opening Day behind the plate. However, Wynns suffered an oblique injury that has kept him from playing so far this year. As a rookie, Wynns hit .255 in 42 games last season. The numbers don’t jump off the page, but he conducted himself like a big leaguer.
All of a sudden, neither of the likely catching candidates were in play for Opening Day. The Orioles sent Andrew Susac to Kansas City for cash considerations, and that left only two men for the job. Jesus Sucre and Pedro Severino got the nod for Baltimore. Raise your hand if you had those two breaking camp with the team on March 1.
Sucre played six years for Seattle and Tampa Bay before making his way to Baltimore. At 30 years old, the Venezuelan immediately became one of the team’s most experience veteran players. Once he sorted out his visa issues back home, Sucre entered camp as a capable hitter and a plus defender.
Sucre played in only eight spring training games, so he likely earned the starting role due to past performances. His best year at the plate came in 2017 when he hit .256 in 62 games. But beggars can’t be choosers, and he’s hit .259 across eight games this year.
While Sucre struggled to reach Sarasota due to visa issues, Severino didn’t even enter the conversation until the end of March. The Orioles claimed the 25-year-old after their DC neighbor designated him for assignment. The Nationals signed Severino out of the Dominican Republic when he was only 16, and he remained in their organization until this year.
Severino caught 70 games for the Nationals in 2018, but hit only .168 with two home runs and 15 RBIs. Still, he can hold his own with a catcher’s mitt. Severino has just three hits in 14 plate appearances, but his two-run double served as the only offense against the Athletics last night.
Both catchers have been lauded for their ability to work with the younger pitchers on the roster. With Nate Karns and Alex Cobb heading to the IL, hardly any of Baltimore’s pitchers will have a great amount of experience. If Sucre and Severino help the young arms develop, they could go hitless and still hold value.
MASN’s Roch Kubatko reported that Wynns may begin a rehab assignment as early as this weekend. When he’s finally healthy, it will be interesting to see how quickly he arrives in Baltimore. Sisco will have to force the issue to get back to Baltimore. Elias didn’t draft Sisco, and he’ll need to prove himself like everyone else during this rebuild.
How do you feel about the Orioles catching situation this year? Have you been surprised by Sucre and Severino, and when do you think Wynns and Sisco will arrive? Let us know.