Rookie catcher Chance Sisco has made the Orioles’ Opening Day roster and is expected to back up veteran Caleb Joseph to begin the 2018 season.
The news became official Friday when fellow catcher Andrew Susac was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk. Sisco has had a superb spring at the plate with a .419 average, two home runs, 10 runs batted in, and a 1.309 on-base plus slugging percentage in 34 plate appearances, reinforcing the optimism about his offensive potential at the major league level. The Orioles’ shortage of left-handed bats certainly hasn’t hurt Sisco’s chances either.
Questions have centered around his defense, but manager Buck Showalter apparently saw enough this spring to feel comfortable with the 23-year-old on the major league roster. Named the No. 68 prospect in Baseball America’s top 100 list in January, Sisco made his major league debut last September and hit two home runs and two doubles in 22 plate appearances. He batted .267 with seven homers, 22 doubles, and a .736 OPS at Triple-A Norfolk in 2017.
It remains to be seen how frequently Sisco will play to start the season with his development behind the plate serving as a major variable. He threw out 23 percent of runners attempting to steal at Triple A last season, but how he handles a major league pitching staff and frames pitches will help determine whether he becomes the primary catcher sooner than later. Some have doubted whether Sisco will be a long-term catcher, which has hurt his league-wide perception over the last couple years.
Joseph has regularly ranked among the top catchers in pitch-framing statistics over the last few years — a valuable trait working with a marginal pitching staff — and posted a respectable .700 OPS last season, but he’s never caught more than 95 games in a major league season as concerns remain about him wearing down with too great a workload. An ideal scenario would likely be a timeshare in which both play a few times per week to both keep Joseph fresh and prevent Sisco from rotting away on the bench. And in the perfect world, Sisco would show enough growth behind the plate to take the reins as the primary catcher at some point later in the season.
In other news, third baseman Tim Beckham remains sidelined after leaving Thursday’s spring game with a groin issue. He isn’t expected to play again until Sunday at the earliest, but Showalter told reporters in Sarasota that Beckham isn’t expected to be placed on the disabled list.
In addition to Sisco, right-handed relief pitcher Pedro Araujo has made the Opening Day roster, capping an impressive spring for the Rule 5 pick. Formerly a member of the Chicago Cubs organization, the 24-year-old has a 2.08 ERA with eight strikeouts in 8 2/3 innings in the Grapefruit League. Araujo pitched primarily at the high Single-A level last season, posting a 1.81 ERA in 64 2/3 innings and averaging 11.6 strikeouts per nine innings.