Coming off a season where he posted the worst offensive numbers of his pro career, it would seem Chance Sisco’s goal for the 2019 season is lofty. But as he rebuilds his confidence and hopefully finds his previous batting stroke, he feels it is reachable.
“Obviously, I want to be the starting catcher,” Sisco said during a FanFest interview. “Who doesn’t want to be a starter? I want to be back there every day. I just want to keep growing and keep learning. We’ve got a really good coaching staff and there will be a lot of learning going on. That’s good for us and should be fun.”
Last year could not have been much fun for Sisco, the Orioles’ second-round draft pick in 2013 who turns 24 on Feb. 24. He didn’t hit much at either Triple-A Norfolk or for the Orioles. He threw out just 13 percent of basestealers at Triple-A and 31 percent in the majors. And that was after he began the year getting 9-of-18 trying to steal.
But Sisco’s year just never got going in a positive direction for any extended length of time. He made the opening day roster, but was sent out to Triple-A on June 17. He returned June 28, but was optioned out again on July 14, only to return again to the Orioles on Sept. 3.
In the majors, Sisco hit .181/288/.269 and he fanned 66 times in 184 plate appearances. The 35.9 percent strikeout rate was second-highest on the team among any player with at least 150 plate appearances, topped only by Chris Davis at 36.8 percent. On the farm for Norfolk in 2018, Sisco hit .242/.344/.352.
This followed a respectable 2017 season at Triple-A where Sisco batted .267/.340/.395 before he did well in a September call-up. In 22 plate appearances, he went 6-for-18 with his first stint in the majors, with two doubles, two homers and four RBIs.
So what happened to Sisco at the plate last season?
“When you struggle, it sucks and your confidence kind of goes,” he said. “That is one thing, taking time off this offseason that I got back, is the confidence. I know I can play here. It’s just about going out there and doing it.”
He surely needs to cut down on the strikeouts. A rate of 17.3 in 2016 at Double-A, went up to 25.5 percent and 23.8 percent the next two years at Triple-A.
A new manager and coaching staff gives the Sisco kid the chance for a fresh start. After all, this is a player that hit .300 or better at every stop through Double-A. He won the South Atlantic League batting title with Single-A Delmarva in 2014, batting .340. His career minor league numbers are .306/.386/.420 with an OPS of .806 - although he has hit less, batting .260/.344/.391 at the Triple-A level.
Sisco was ranked among his league’s top 20 prospects by Baseball America in every full season league through Triple-A. He has been an Orioles’ top four prospect or better four times and was rated their No. 1 at the end of 2016, when he was ranked No. 57 in the top 100 by Baseball America. The following year, Baseball America rated him No. 68 in the top 100. The resume is strong.
During an interview Saturday he was asked to sum up his 2018 struggles.
“A learning experience,” said Sisco. “Obviously, things didn’t go necessarily the way I wanted them to go. But when I take time off in the offseason, the thing that I can look back on is the experience that I got last year. There is nothing like that first full season (in the majors). There were ups and downs, getting sent down two times. But just that experience, the learning experience, just taking the struggles, the ups and downs and learning from it. When those times come, just be able to reflect back on that time.
“That first full year, you learn a lot. You learn the day in and day out routine of being a big leaguer. Coming to the field, knowing what to expect. Coming to the field in the minors, it’s slightly different. You don’t have as much access to a lot of different scouting reports. Last year, you kind of go in with a blindfold on and now I know what to expect.”
So when I asked Sisco would it would take to get back to being that hitter who could spray line drives foul line to foul line, he didn’t talk about any batting tweaks or swing adjustments.
“Confidence. That is the biggest thing for me,” he said as gets set to head to training camp in search of an opportunity to show that 2018 was the outlier. “Don’t press. There is nothing you can do about things you can’t control, so control what you can. There are things you always try to fine-tune, but it’s not like I’m coming in with a new swing this year.”