The Orioles plan for Friday night’s game against the Blue Jays changed abruptly in the afternoon when the team announced that scheduled starting pitcher Bruce Zimmermann is now on the injured list with left bicep tendinitis. The end result of Zimmermann’s injury is that catcher Chance Sisco has been designated for assignment by the team.
With Zimmermann’s injury situation cropping up on short notice, the O’s only real choice for getting a starting pitcher onto the roster for Friday’s game was to select the contract of once and now future Oriole Thomas Eshelman from Norfolk. Eshelman appeared in 22 games for the 2019 and 2020 Orioles before being removed from the 40-man roster after last season. He re-signed a minor league deal with the team.
As a swingman in 2020, Eshelman had a 3.89 ERA across 34.2 innings. There are probably worse options and there are probably better ones. One of my general rules of roster maneuvering is that if a team has to bring back a player it previously kicked off the 40-man roster, that is likely not a good sign. It signals desperation.
Indeed, Eshelman hasn’t even been pitching well for Norfolk this year, with a 6.41 ERA across six games. His longest outing went 4.2 innings with 88 pitches thrown. He’s probably not going six innings, or even five, on Friday night.
Since Eshelman was not on the 40-man roster, the O’s had to clear a spot. The players on the 10-day injured list - John Means and now Zimmermann - are not candidates to go on the 60-day injured list. So, someone had to be designated for assignment.
You might have landed on a different name if it was up to you. I’ve seen enough of Travis Lakins, currently at Norfolk, to say nothing of a couple of the struggling MLB pitchers who could probably be released.
The O’s chose Sisco, and it’s hard to argue with that. The guy has just never hit at the major league level. His big league career has spanned nearly 600 plate appearances across five seasons. Sisco’s combined MLB batting line: .199/.319/.399. He was mired in a new level of misery across his 73 plate appearances in 2021, with just ten hits and two extra-base hits.
With Adley Rutschman presumably arriving in Norfolk later this summer and in Baltimore not too long into next season, Sisco’s time on the roster had a limit anyway. The 2021 season used up his final minor league option. He’s simply not good enough at the catching part of catching to end up in a “light-hitting backup catcher” sort of role. Neither is regular 2021 catcher Pedro Severino, but that’s another roster move for another day.
Sending Sisco to the minors and bringing up Austin Wynns - another guy previously chucked from the 40-man roster - told us what we needed to know about how the Mike Elias Orioles view this particular guy drafted in the Dan Duquette era.
Sisco was a second round pick all the way back in the 2013 draft. He had an OBP over .400 as a 21-year-old in Double-A in 2016. Many publications had Sisco in their top 100 prospect lists prior to the 2017 season on the strength of that 2016 campaign while three years younger than the average Double-A player. Sisco could not translate that into MLB success.
A commonly-held piece of MLB draft wisdom is that high school catchers are a risky demographic. For a little while, it looked like Sisco might prove to be an exception to that piece of wisdom. That’s not how things ended up working out.