Will the Baltimore Orioles add a veteran catcher to the mix this offseason or roll with what they have?
Entering the 2019 regular season, the Baltimore Orioles featured two catchers on their active roster in Pedro Severino and Jesus Sucre. Sucre, a minor league free agent signing, was late arriving to spring training due to visa issues, while Severino was a waiver claim who featured positive reviews on his defense but lacked much as far as offense.
Surprisingly, the Orioles saw decent production out of the catching position, much more than originally anticipated. We all know 2019 first-round draft pick Adley Rutschman is going to be the man for many years to come, but that won’t be until 2021. Do the Orioles make any moves surrounding the catching position this offseason?
Jesus Sucre didn’t last long with the Orioles. He appeared in just 20 games, hit .210, and seemed to fall out favor with the pitching staff due to his often emotional responses to bad pitches. Sucre accepted an assignment to Triple-A Norfolk and played uneventful baseball for a few weeks before being placed on the Restricted List and disappearing.
Serving as the primary catcher for much of the season, Severino slashed a respectable .249/.321/.420 with 13 home runs, a wRC+ of 94 and was worth 0.5 Wins Above Replacement, per Fangraphs. Quite the improvement from his wRC+ of 31 and -0.7 fWAR in 70 games with the Washington Nationals last season.
His defense seemed to fade as the season went along, but Severino impressed enough to go into 2020 as the favorite to be the Opening Day starting catcher and primary man until Rutschman is ready to take the baton.
The Orioles also featured former top prospect Chance Sisco and Austin Wynns behind the plate in 2019. Sisco came out of the gates hot, but hit just .168 and posted a wRC+ of 53 after the All-Star break. Reports of Sisco improving his defense proved false as it was just as bad as it’s always been.
As for Wynns, there are plenty of worse emergency reserve catchers to have, but that’s all he is. He hit .214 with a .247 OBP in 24 games and his defense also left a lot to be desired.
Catching options for the Baltimore Orioles.
The Orioles could go into 2020 with the same pair of catchers in Severino and Sisco, but that doesn’t make the team better.
A number of young pitchers, such as Keegan Akin, Dean Kremer, and Bruce Zimmermann, along with possibly a few relief arms, are likely to make their major league debuts next season and see good chunks of time on the mound. They need a catcher behind the plate who helps in their development.
Severino can be that guy for another season. His job is safe. Wynns is likely a 40-man casualty as the Orioles make room for Rule 5 eligible players, leaving a decision on Sisco. Barring something crazy, Sisco will return, but may have to fight for a major league job again. He still has options remaining and can be sent back to Triple-A, if necessary.
There aren’t really any options already in the organization who can challenge Sisco or make the major league roster better. Martin Cervenka, 27, would be a fun storyline as the first major league player from the Czech Republic, however, he’s a career .240 hitter in the minors, struggles to get on base, has virtually no power, and doesn’t have any standout tools on defense.
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Brett Cumberland is a Top 30 prospect in the O’s system, according to MLB Pipeline, but the switch-hitting catcher doesn’t project as a backstop at the major league level. He appeared in just 60 games this season due to injury but recorded a .404 on-base percentage across three levels. Cumberland has some pop and can get on base, but there are major questions surrounding his defense behind the plate and he hasn’t been able to hit the ball enough despite being labeled as a bat-first catcher.
Bringing in a veteran to compete for the backup job makes a lot of sense for Mike Elias and the Baltimore Orioles. Elias has already said he doesn’t plan on adding much to the payroll and with Rutschman waiting in the wings, there’s absolutely no reason to pay up for a one-year stopgap. An older catcher with above-average defense can be found for cheap, another Jesus Sucre type, if you will.
With rosters expanding for 26 players next season, the Orioles could also look to add to the catching competition through the Rule 5 draft. Low cost and low risk will be the direction here, if Baltimore decides to add a backstop. But would anyone available in the Rule 5 draft be a better option than Chance Sisco?
What do you think, Orioles fans? Are you comfortable rolling with Severino and Sisco again in 2020? How would you address the catching situation, if at all? Let us know!