Catcher Chance Sisco and relief pitcher Tanner Scott were thought to be among the few intriguing young players who would begin the season with the rebuilding Orioles while most others go the minors.
General manager Mike Elias had other ideas, however, as the two were optioned to Triple-A Norfolk on Sunday despite seeing extensive playing time with the Orioles last season. The moves were just the latest reminder of there being a new regime in Baltimore with a different vision prioritizing player development for the future over the short-term results at the major-league level.
Sisco and defensive-minded veteran Jesus Sucre had appeared to be the favorites to head north on the 25-man roster, but the waiver acquisition of former Washington catcher Pedro Severino over the weekend led to the former’s demotion, a clear sign of the organization valuing defense behind the plate to help a young pitching staff. Sisco, 24, had a strong spring in which he posted a 1.298 on-base plus slugging percentage in 45 plate appearances — his second straight impressive Grapefruit League — but his defense remains a major question mark in his long-term development.
In 184 plate appearances with the Orioles last season, Sisco batted just .181 with 66 strikeouts and a .557 OPS. He also struggled in his 2018 stints with the Tides, batting just .242 with a .696 OPS in 151 plate appearances.
Once thought to be the Nationals’ catcher of the future, the 25-year-old Severino is out of minor-league options and owns a career .560 OPS in 282 major league plate appearances. His defense is his strength as he’s thrown out 36 percent of runners attempting to steal in his brief major league career.
Also vying for a major league job, 28-year-old catcher Austin Wynns has missed extensive spring action while recovering from an oblique strain and is likely to begin the season on the injured list.
Scott was demoted to Norfolk after a rough spring in which he posted an 8.00 ERA with six walks and six strikeouts in nine innings. The hard-throwing lefty posted a 5.40 ERA in 53 1/3 innings with the Orioles last season, but his 12.8 strikeouts per nine innings were encouraging, especially if he can further improve his control.
It’s worth noting Scott has pitched just 12 innings at the Triple-A level, which may have factored into Elias’ decision to send him to the minors after an up-and-down rookie season. The Orioles are also trying to fulfill the remainder of right-hander Pedro Araujo’s Rule 5 requirement, which will require the 25-year-old to stay in the majors until mid-April.
The Orioles also optioned left-hander Josh Rogers to Norfolk and reassigned catchers Carlos Perez and Andrew Susac and infielder Jace Peterson to minor-league camp on Sunday.