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Why Not Take A Chance? (On Sisco)

If you think about the Yankees of the last few years and their roster construction, there are a few common themes amongst the groups of players that Cashman & Co. have brought in:

Former top prospects, players down on their luck, and guys who are still young. Today, I bring you a player that the Yankees should take a “Chance” on for 2022.

 

A Former Top Prospect:

Chance Sisco was, a short while ago, seen as a potential long-term future piece for the Baltimore Orioles. After being drafted 61st overall (2nd Round) in the 2013 MLB First Year player draft, he quickly became one of the Top-3 prospects in the Baltimore Orioles’ farm system from 2014-2017, up until when he broke into the MLB.

Sisco is a left-handed hitting catcher who at his best, was seen as the 45th best prospect by MLB Pipeline. Mostly seen as a bat-first catcher who was expected to hit for a high average, Cisco grew into occasional pop that started to improve with his age and experience in the minor leagues. From his prospect profile when he ranked 45th after the 2017 season, scouts graded Cisco’s tools at: 60 Hit, 45 Power, 40 Run, 45 Arm, 50 Field, and an Overall of 55 (all scores out of 80, with an average of 50). Coming from that same MLB Pipeline prospect profile: “He makes a lot of quality contact with a level left-handed stroke and never tries to do too much, letting the ball travel deep so as to utilize the whole field, while also showing a very impressive approach and plate discipline.” And, while his profile goes on to say his defense could use work, they also highlighted that there were encouraging signs that brought him from a net-negative defense catcher to net-zero projections.

By all means he was a considerable name at the time and somebody that the Orioles highly coveted.

But, what went wrong?

 

Down on His Luck:

With a lot of former top prospects (or so it seems), there is one common thread that can be traced as to why they didn’t reach their potential: injuries. However, outside of a stint on the 7-day DL in 2014 and two 7-Day DL stints in 2015, Cisco has not been on a DL or IL since then. Instead, it seems as though he was never given a true chance to get consistent playing time while in the MLB.

In his 2018 season when he played 63 games at the MLB level, the 23-year-old Cisco (who broke camp with the big league team) was used in just 34 of his teams first 50 games as he battled the 32-year-old Caleb Joseph for starting reps. Joseph would end the season with a 58 OPS+ while Sisco would do so with a 56 OPS+. (Now, to be fair Joseph was also the better defender, yet he ended the season with just a +0.3 bWAR.)

Sisco would improve in 2019 while hitting to a 93 OPS+, but this time around had to go up against the 25-year-old Pedro Severino (who ended the season with a 95 OPS+).

For the shortened 2020 season, Cisco would hit to a 103 OPS+…however the Orioles stuck with Severino who hit to a 91 OPS+ (though, also had positive defense). This led to the Orioles again using Sisco sparingly in 2021 before he was DFA’ed and taken by the Mets.

Now, Sisco did not have a good 2021 across the two teams. He had a SLG of .189 and an OPS+ of 20 while he was in the MLB (for a total of 28 games), and in the minors he hit to a career-low .200/.310/.393 triple-slash at Triple-A.

However, I think there is hope here.

 

He’s Still Young:

Chance Sisco is still just 26 years old (and he will be 27 for the majority of the 2022 season). If there is a player that a team can take a chance on, it’s a young player who should be just reaching his prime years now as a ballplayer. And I have faith that his 2021 season was a fluke year and has gotten him down.

While he has over 1000 innings of experience behind the plate, I don’t put stock into his defense metrics so far. He’s played sporadically over parts of 5 seasons with under 200 games to his credit. Unfortunately, I think this is where he loses a lot of value by the minds of baseball fans and statisticians as fangraphs lists his defense at a -13.2 during this time. (Baseball-Reference gives him just a -0.1 dWAR.) While he’s likely not a positive defender, I believe he’s likely not as bad as otherwise believed.

Side-Tangent: For this same reason is why Kyle Higashioka is more valuable than his bWAR or fWAR gives him credit for. Those metrics do not consider the volatility of his game experience. He plays sporadic baseball and has stayed extremely consistent with solid defense (given the eye test) over his years with the Yankees.

I also believe that this sporadic playing has led to a drop-off in his offensive profile. It cannot be fun seeing yourself get better and put up better stats over the years while continuing to be considered the back-up to an aging veteran (Joseph) and then usurped by a different young catcher (Severino). I think a change of scenery (I’m not going to count the 39 total games in the Mets system as that) would do him well. Especially going to a team that has historically good luck recently with catchers and helping former prospects find their groove.

He also had just a .208 BABIP in 2021 and an ISO of 0.41. While there are some worrying signs about a lack of average or power shown in his career, he does have a solid walk-rate (10.2%) which has kept his OBP consistently 100 points higher than his average. Plus, he has value as a left-handed bat.

A current free-agent as of October 5th (Sisco elected it after being outrighted to the Syracuse Chiefs after the season by the Mets), it shouldn’t take much to convince him to join on with the Yankees. An incentive deal with perks in the MLB alongside a traditional minor-league contract may be all it takes for the Yankees to outbid the rest.

The Yankees can always use catching depth and the number of left-handed hitting catchers is always low. They’ve shown great ability recently to fix careers, and they have a solid contender to be that next storyline waiting. He’d be cheap and he fits the proper mold that the Yankees should consider when building a team.

So, why not take a Chance on Sisco?Embed from Getty Images

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