Sisco’s demotion latest head-scratching development for Orioles

June 18, 2018 | Luke Jones

Hours after Chance Sisco was originally penciled into Sunday’s lineup, the Orioles sent the 23-year-old catcher to Triple-A Norfolk.

It was a surprising announcement since manager Buck Showalter had just implied after the 10-4 win over Miami that Sisco was scratched due to being under the weather.

“I’m afraid he’s coming down with [something],” Showalter said. “He hasn’t slept in two or three days. … Just talking to him before the game, his energy level. He was ready to go. Just didn’t think it was in his best interest with the off-day tomorrow, but we’ll see. A lot of factors. That was the principal one. He just hadn’t slept any. It’s hard enough to play this game when you have.”

Sisco went from starting to being pulled from the lineup to being optioned to the minors in a little over six hours. Weird.

To be clear, the rookie isn’t exactly having a great season and has numbers that would definitely warrant a demotion if the club were even remotely in contention. He’s batting just .218 with a .328 slugging percentage and has struck out a whopping 35.5 percent of the time, a rate not far from Chris Davis territory (37.6 percent). However, his .340 on-base percentage is third on the club behind only Manny Machado and Danny Valencia, and a number of others on this roster deserve to be jettisoned before Sisco if we’re basing this solely on performance on a last-place club.

Sisco’s defense has been scrutinized throughout his professional career, and he had thrown out just one of the last 18 runners attempting to steal after surprisingly gunning down nine of the first 18 this season. His average pop time — the time from the moment the pitch hits the catcher’s mitt to the moment the ball reaches the fielder at the base a runner is attempting to steal — is still too slow and his arm strength lacking while his pitch-framing metrics also rank among the bottom catchers in the majors, according to Baseball Prospectus.

His defense undoubtedly remains a work in progress, but bench coach John Russell is also regarded as a superb catching instructor to continue to oversee Sisco’s development at this level.

The timing of this demotion doesn’t seem to make much sense for a club that is 30 games under .500 and going nowhere, but the Orioles are instead expected to summon the 32-year-old Caleb Joseph back to the majors. One could argue that Sisco might benefit from a mental break and a potential confidence boost playing for the Tides, but you won’t find a major league climate with less pressure from a competitive standpoint than Baltimore right now. He also spent his entire 2017 minor-league season with Norfolk, seemingly leaving little for him to prove at that level.

What does he need to work on that can’t be done while continuing to play in Baltimore?

The Orioles have used a catching carousel all season, going from the tandem of Joseph and Sisco to open the season to Sisco and Andrew Susac to Sisco and Austin Wynns to the current pair of Wynns and Joseph. Sisco’s demotion isn’t the end of the world nor does it mean the Orioles have soured on him to any great degree, but it does appear counterintuitive to what this season should be about the rest of the way.

Odds & ends

In an already-lost season from a competitive standpoint, you’re left to look for moments such as hard-throwing rookie Tanner Scott striking out Justin Bour with a nasty slider to leave the bases loaded in the seventh inning of a four-run game on Sunday. Scott is averaging an impressive 12.5 strikeouts compared to 3.1 walks per nine innings this season. … Trey Mancini had been 4-for-50 with runners in scoring position this season before his RBI single in the third inning of Sunday’s win. He batted .340 in that department as a rookie. … Jonathan Schoop drew four walks during the Miami series after registering only seven over his first 47 games. You hope that increased level of patience is a sign of better things to come as the 2017 All-Star second baseman is batting just .212 with a .626 on-base plus slugging percentage. … Brad Brach pitched a scoreless eighth inning, but he issued a walk and is averaging 5.2 free passes per nine innings. He needs to get on a roll and cut down on the walks to improve his trade value. … Sunday marked the first time the Orioles enjoyed a lead of four or more runs since May 24 in Chicago. … The Orioles scored a combined 27 runs on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. They scored a total of just 18 runs in 11 straight home losses between those holidays.