Solid bat, improved defense have led Chance Sisco to the Futures Game

He is one of the Orioles’ top prospects. While he has never been ranked in an end-of-season top 100 list by Baseball America, catcher Chance Sisco was rated No. 85 yesterday when it released its mid-season top 100 prospects report.

The Orioles’ 21-year-old Double-A catcher is trending up.

The kid the Orioles drafted out of a California high school in the second round in 2013 has always hit well for average. But this year, his defense seems to be taking some steps forward, too. All of this is leading Sisco tomorrow to San Diego’s Petco Park where he will represent the Orioles in the All-Star Futures Game and catch for Team USA.

Players like Zach Britton, Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop, Eduardo Rodriguez, Chris Tillman, Dylan Bundy and Hunter Harvey have played in this game for the Orioles. Now Sisco gets his shot.

hess-sisco-warmup-wide.jpgNo doubt the lefty swinger can hit for average. He batted .371 in his pro debut in the Gulf Coast League in 2013. A year later, he won the South Atlantic League batting title, hitting .340 for Single-A Delmarva. This year at Bowie, Sisco is batting .307/.397/.398 in 71 Baysox games with 18 doubles, one triple, one homer and 28 RBIs. He ranks fourth in the Eastern League in batting average and third in OBP. He’ll play in the Eastern League All-Star Game Wednesday night in Akron. But first comes the national showcase of the Futures Game.

All that offense is fine, but Sisco’s defense, questioned often by scouts, has gotten better. When I asked him recently at Bowie how his game has grown from last year to this year, he cited defense first.

“Tremendously. Definitely defensively,” he said. “I’m throwing a lot better, I’m blocking a lot better. The focus and time I put in behind the plate has really helped. Over time, I’ve just gotten more comfortable and confident back there.

“Have improved on my footwork (throwing out runners) and getting a good transfer and good throw. Have really gotten help from the pitchers to have them give me some good set times. We’re doing what we can do to shut down the running game.”

For the first time, Sisco was a spring training non-roster invitee with the Orioles in Sarasota before this season. He worked alongside and learned from Orioles catchers and coaches.

“That was one of the big focuses I had in spring training working with (coach) John Russell, Caleb (Joseph) and Matt (Wieters),” Sisco said. “Getting footwork squared away, so I could make a good throw. Defense comes first. Being in big league camp this year, it opened my eyes a bit to how much focus we need to put behind the plate.”

Sisco said spending time in major league camp was so important for him and provided him with the confidence that he could one day play at that level.

“Big league camp gave me a ton of confidence, being able to work with the guys,” he said. “Pretty much caught everyone that was up there. Working with Caleb, Matt, JR (John Russell), definitely gave me confidence.”

At the plate, scouts have rated Sisco’s hit tool well ahead of his power tool. His career minor league slash line is .321/.400/.426 with an OPS of .826. The on-base percentage is all the more impressive in that Sisco has below average speed and doesn’t get the benefit of help in that stat with many infield hits. But with his smooth lefty swing, he uses the entire field well and his solid plate discipline seems to have also improved this year.

“I’m just trying to see the ball and hit the ball,” he said. “There is not much else to it for me approach-wise. I’m just trying to make good contact, drive in some runs and get on base as much as possible.”

What has been the key to that high OBP?

“Patience. Not always going up there to hit the first pitch,” he said. “Look for your pitch and get something in my zone. I don’t know what my walk ratio or whatever it is has been in the past, but I feel like what it’s at right now, it is definitely showing that my patience and my eye for the zone has grown a lot.”

Delmarva no-hitter: The game was shortened to five innings by rain, but right-hander Ofelky Peralta did not allow a hit over those five innings, so it was officially a no-hitter last night for Single-A Delmarva as the Shorebirds beat Hagerstown 5-0 at Perdue Stadium.

A 19-year-old right-hander from the Dominican Republic, Peralta walked one with eight strikeouts. He one-hit Hagerstown over six innings in his previous start. So over those two games, he has thrown 11 scoreless innings, allowing one hit with two walks and 15 strikeouts. On the year, Peralta is 5-4 with a 3.45 ERA. Before this season, he was rated the Orioles’ No. 17 prospect by Baseball America.

Peralta got through five innings on 64 pitches and just two runners reached base - one on a walk, one on an error. The only other no-hitter in Shorebirds history came last year. Left-hander John Means threw a seven-inning no-hitter against the Charleston RiverDogs on July 31.

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