Take a Chance on Sisco

It’s impossible to resist an opportunity for a cheesy pun. If you haven’t followed the Orioles or prefer researching Major Leaguers to minor leaguers, you are completely forgiven for not realizing this article is all about the Orioles’ latest call-up, catcher Chance Sisco. Though it feels like he has floated around prospect lists forever, Sisco is still just 24 years old and has just 206 MLB plate appearances to his name. Clearly, that’s way too small a sample to give up on him, which would be true of any player, especially a top prospect.

Sisco first got his feet wet back in 2017 when he was a September call-up. He showed enough at the big league level to open the 2018 season as with the Orioles, sharing time behind the plate with Caleb Joseph. Unfortunately, it didn’t go so well. He posted a hideous .259 wOBA, struck out about 36% of the time, hit few line drives, and displayed little power. Oh, and his framing metrics were poor, as per StatCorner. So the boot he got, back to Triple-A he went.

He was certainly better at Triple-A, but heck, it ain’t too difficult to outhit a .259 wOBA. He posted a .319 mark, which failed to impress, and it meant that he would have had to do a lot this spring training to open the year with the big league club. It didn’t happen.

So he began his fourth year in Triple-A, which is the point at which you pray a major offensive breakout occurs. Thankfully, it did. Both his strikeout rate and SwStk% fell to their lowest marks during his various Triple-A stints, he became a line drive machine, continued his impressive avoidance of the pop-up, and finally experienced that big power surge that was hoped for sooner or later.

That power spike was driven by a near 30% HR/FB rate, which, amazingly, was actually the first time his HR/FB rate even reached double digits over a reasonable sample size. How crazy is that?! His ISO skyrocketed to .241, nearly double his previous reasonable sample size career best of .128. Now we have a catcher prospect with some real offensive potential!

Even better is that despite the fact we all think of the Orioles as a weak offensive team, their ballpark is excellent for power. Last year, it inflated left-handed home runs by 14%, which ranked fifth best in baseball. So the ballpark will do its best to help stave off regression from his Triple-A power explosion. Surely, regression is coming, but it would be a lot more if he called AT&T Park home, for example.

With the Orioles going nowhere, they are full-on youth movement. Well, at least they are trying all sorts of things to find out what sticks. Sisco figures to get a long leash and as a left-handed batter, might end up slotting in on the strong side of a platoon with the incumbent Pedro Severino.

The catcher position has been a wasteland and it’s not often a backstop is recalled that has real offensive potential and the chance for regular playing time. Sisco is a buy in nearly all league sizes and formats.

Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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3 years ago

Worth dropping Lucroy for?

3 years ago
Reply to  Menthol

Lucroy is a tough one to figure out. I rostered him for a bit last year because his granular stats were just really not that different from what he was doing when he was one of the best hitting catchers in the game. BB%, K%, batted ball stats, plate discipline stats, even the Statcast numbers back to 2015 – none of it is all that different from his 2012-2016 peak. He doesn’t get shifted at all so it isn’t that.

Yet here we are on year 3 of him being borderline (depending on league depth of course).