Austin Wynns has a positive outlook for this season
The competition to take place for the catcher position has been discussed all winter long. When the Orioles non-tendered former backstop Caleb Joseph, it became clear there would be opportunities arising when camp opened. Now that Joseph has found a new home with the Arizona Diamondbacks, there’s a chance for any of the six catchers in Sarasota to break camp on the 25-man roster.
When the Orioles open the season in New York on March 28, a safe assumption would be that Chance Sisco is pencilled in behind the plate. He’s the Orioles’ second-round pick from 2013 that offensively tore his way through the minor league system. However, looking at his production at the major league level, it’s hard to consider Sisco the front-runner for the starting job.
While his caught-stealing rate can be rounded up to 28% over 47 chances, his career .197 batting average falls over one-hundred points short of matching his career minor league average (.306). Appearing in 63 games last season, it was a 3-for-32 slump through June and July that warranted a demotion to Triple-A Norfolk.
Sisco was called back up in September, but did not record a hit or draw a walk in 11 plate appearances. Sisco’s option to Triple-A Norfolk allowed Austin Wynns to re-join the team after just 16-days away from the big league squad.
Wynns started the season with Triple-A Norfolk, hitting .257 with four home runs and 16 RBI over 32 games. The Orioles optioned catcher Andrew Susac to Triple-A Norfolk in June, opening the door for Wynns to make his major league debut.
On June 5, facing New York Mets starter Jason Vargas, Wynns lined a ball into left field, singling in his major league debut. He played in ten games before being optioned back to the minors, going 5-for-26, including his first big league home run on June 7 off Toronto Blue Jays reliever, Tyler Clippard.
In his time with the Orioles last season, Wynns was able to cut down 32% (7-of-22) of would-be base stealers, which was four percent better than the league average. He also posted a 32% (77-of-242) caught stealing rate through 371 games (292 starts) at the minor league level. In 2017, with Double-A Bowie, he posted his best caught stealing rate of his professional career, nabbing 29-of-76 runners, good for 38%.
The opportunity is presenting itself for not only the starting catcher position to be won, but the backup job as well. The Orioles were in search of a veteran catcher to potentially play for a spot on the team, but more importantly to help mentor the younger talent within the organization. A few weeks ago, the team signed 30-year-old Jesús Sucre to a minor-league contract worth $850,000 if he lands a spot on the 25-man roster. However, Sucre has been held up in his native land of Venezuela due to Visa issues.
Regardless of the number of guys vying for two opportunities, Wynns told the media after yesterday’s workouts that he’s confident about the upcoming season. “More confidence is the key,” Wynns said. “Now we’re here [at Spring Training], there’s opportunity galore here and right now a lot of people are fighting for jobs, so right now this is it. This is where you need to be and do everything you can.”
And Wynns isn’t going to let the fact that there’s a plethora of open competition taking place in camp this season change his mindset for making the team. “Mentality doesn’t change,” he said. “Just go out there and do what you do, that’s why all of us are here.”
The feeling seems to be mutual around camp this season about the new coaching staff. Wynns spoke on one of the members of the new staff and said, “[Tim] Cossins is like… the man. He has a lot of knowledge to bring, so listening to him, it’s awesome.”
Although they brought in an entirely new coaching staff, the Orioles aren’t expected to make a lot of noise this season. The projections are bleak, with many saying the team hovers around 60-wins. According to 80% of the fanbase, they’ll win less than that. However, the competitions in camp are just as important – if not more – for a team that is entering its first full re-building season.
Two things to look forward to this season – which have been stated time and time again over the past few weeks – are the team competing nightly and player development. Whether or not the new analytical tools introduced for player development will help the team surpass their 47-win total from a year ago is to be determined, but when asked about what he’s looking forward to in 2019, Wynns was short and to the point.
“A lot of change and more W’s, togetherness and you’ll see.”
Wynns may have the slight edge over Sisco to break camp as the Opening Day starting catcher. He also has a favorable chance at making the team in some capacity. Under team control until 2025, Wynns should play a big part in the team’s rebuild over the next few years.