The Baltimore Orioles’ roster is nowhere near set in stone yet as we head into the second week of Spring Training games, as many positions are wide open for starting jobs, including catcher.
Caleb Joseph and Chance Sisco appear to be the two catchers that will be on the Opening Day roster; however, who will start the season at the top of the depth chart remains to be seen.
Joseph, 31, has been with the big-league club since 2014, when Matt Wieters underwent Tommy John Surgery, and put up a .256/.287/.413 line with 8 home runs and 28 RBI over 89 games last season. Sisco, 23, has been a top prospect for the Orioles the last two years, and made his major league debut in September, batting .333/.455/.778 with 2 home runs and 4 RBI over 22 plate appearances.
There is an argument for both Joseph and Sisco to start at catcher for the 2018 Orioles, so let’s take a look:
Caleb Joseph has proven he can be not only a competent catcher, but also excel at the position. Joseph finished 2017 ranked 4th in Called Strikes Above Average, trailing only Atlanta’ Tyler Flowers, Los Angeles’ Austin Barnes, and San Diego’s Austin Hedges (Baseball Prospectus). Joseph’s stellar pitch framing abilities are underappreciated, especially with the preceding starting catchers of Wieters and Welington Castillo dropping the ball (no pun intended) behind the plate. Most of Joseph’s value comes from behind the plate, but he swings a competent bottom of the order bat as well. In 89 games last season, Joseph put up an 82 wRC+, which while not great, is respectable enough to bat ninth and provide elite defense. With a very weak rotation, the added ability to frame and block pitches simply cannot be left on the bench 70% of the time.
Chance Sisco soared through the minors after being drafted in the 2nd round of the 2013 MLB Draft, reaching the big-league club in late September. Throughout his career, Sisco has been known for a high contact bat and his ability to get on base; however, he saw a dip in his overall numbers after reaching AAA Norfolk. Minor league statistics do not tell the whole story, but it is still worth noting. Sisco is a better offensive option than Joseph but lacks the quality defense needed in MLB at the catcher position. This spring, Sisco has been red hot to the tune of a .375/.412/.687 line with a home run and 6 RBI in 16 at-bats, and while Spring Training statistics can be misleading (see Joey Rickard), is still a promising sight to see. Sisco is the younger option at catcher and a fresh face that could light a spark on an relatively dull roster.
Both Sisco and Joseph have the qualifications to be the starter when the Orioles depart Sarasota at the end of the month, but another question remains: Do you want a 23-year old rookie starting 100 games with a shaky rotation? If the Orioles truly believe they can compete, Joseph is the safe and dependable option. However, if the Orioles decide they want to get younger in a season that lacks promise and reign in a new era at the catching position, Sisco is the man for the job.