SARASOTA, Fla. - Take the combination of a player who gave his confidence a reboot over the winter and a first-year manager who quickly has established a relaxed spring camp and you get a player who struggled last year but now has three homers in six spring at-bats this year.
Chance Sisco, go ahead and put 2018 behind you and welcome to a new year with a new staff and a fresh start. Sisco hit a three-run homer in his first spring at-bat Saturday (on his first swing) in Sarasota, and yesterday he added two more home runs.
He hit a two-run shot in the second, another in the fourth and added an RBI single in the fifth. That’s a three-hit, five-RBI day. For the spring, the Sisco kid is 4-for-6 with three homers and eight RBIs.
Most fans can easily remember how 2018 was almost a lost year for the Orioles’ 2013 second-round pick. He hit .242 at Norfolk and .181/.288/.269 in 63 games with the Orioles. He fanned 66 times in 184 plate appearances. The 35.9 percent strikeout rate was second-highest on the team of any player with at least 150 plate appearances, topped only by Chris Davis at 36.8 percent.
But at FanFest, the soft-spoken Sisco said this: “When you struggle, it sucks and your confidence kind of goes. 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.”
Since Saturday he’s had his chance to do it. He also said in January that he wants to be the starting catcher for this team. A nice goal, but coming off his 2018 season, starting this year for Triple-A Norfolk seemed most likely. Now Sisco is trying to flip that script.
His confidence is back so far in the early games and manager Brandon Hyde’s relaxed vibe for this Orioles team doesn’t hurt anyone, especially young players. Especially players who struggled in 2018.
“It’s just right now everyone’s a little bit relaxed and we’re having fun out there,” Sisco said. “Just going out there, and that’s the biggest thing that Hyde’s been talking about is be yourself, have fun, play with your hair on fire and just like that.”
With all of Sisco’s struggles last season, we should not forget his strong minor league resume. This is a player who 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 at the Triple-A level, batting .260/.344/.391.
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 solid.
If he can hold his own on defense, the promise he once showed might be realized after all. Delayed, not denied, former skipper Buck Showalter would say. It’s just a few games and a few at-bats so far. But Sisco’s hot start probably has the O’s brass wanting to see more.
The O’s worldwide following: It’s been a real thrill for me to broadcast play-by-play this spring of several Orioles games on Orioles.com and the MLB At Bat app. We’ll have another such live stream audio-only broadcast today at 1 p.m. when the Orioles play the Phillies in Clearwater.
When the Orioles played the Rays on Tuesday, I asked listeners to write to me at my Twitter account (@masnsteve) and tell me where they were listening. There was a flood of responses.
I heard from fans in England, Mexico, the Netherlands, Australia, Jamaica and Poland - and they were not even my relatives! You broadcast a game from this booth in Sarasota and are heard thousands of miles away in six different countries. That is pretty cool.
I also heard from listeners all over America - fans from at least 20 states before I lost count. From Maryland to New Jersey, to New York, Indiana, Montana, North Dakota and California. From sea to shining sea.
Birdland has no geographical limits.
Anytime you hear me on Orioles.com, please send in a note to that Twitter account and tell me where you are listening in and send in Orioles questions that we will answer during the coverage.
No matter where you are in the world.