Breakout Position Player: Jacob Stallings
First, there’s his defense. Stallings had +14 DRS, and caught 40% of the runners trying to steal on him. Not only did he do that, but was worth +8.7 framing runs. That ranked 11th in the MLB. Despite having just 3058 framing chances, nearly 5000 fewer than the 2nd place leader in framing runs, Yasmani Grandal, and nearly half of the 10th place finisher Buster Posey.
Stallings showed outstanding work behind the plate. Across 6000 chances, that would equal about 17.1 framing runs. Stallings also had 3.6 blocking runs, showing that he was outstanding at keeping the ball in front of him. All told, Stallings had a 1.4 defensive WAR in just 463.1 innings behind the dish. Across 800 innings, that comes out to a 2.4 dWAR. That will all surely help the pitchers.
While that’s great for defense, and defense is what you want to focus on when looking at a catcher, I think many overlook Stallings could be a contributor with the bat, more so than you think. For one, Stallings batted .262/.325/.382 with a 82 wRC+ and .297 wOBA in 210 plate appearances. The average major league catcher batted .236/.308/.405 with an 85 wRC+ and .303 wOBA. Basically, Stallings was your league average catcher offensively.
But Stallings has shown the ability to be a much more productive batter, even for a catcher. Deserved runs created plus is Baseball Prospectus’ version of wRC+ and OPS+, and is a better way of predicting a player’s future performance. Stallings had a pretty solid 96 DRC+.
Some notable names with a DRC+ around that are Amed Rosario (96), Didi Gregorious (96), James McCann (96), and our very own Adam Frazier (95). Not only does DRC+ see Stallings improving, but so does some of his expected stats. You shouldn’t expect much regression in terms of batting average as he still had an xBA of .259. But Stallings had a expected slugging of .423, again placing him right with Mets’ shortstop Amed Rosario who had 15 home runs and 30 doubles. Stallings also had a .313 xWOBA. Although not outstanding by any means, it shows he can improve in that area too as he had a .297 wOBA in ‘19. His xWOBA also tied him with Jonathan Villar, a guy who had a 109 OPS+ last year. With an 88.8 MPH average exit velocity in 2019, Stallings would rank in the top 10 of all catchers last year too. Just for reference, the MLB average exit velo was 87.5 MPH.
Although Stallings might not be the best batter on the team, all the signs point that he could be an underrated player in 2020. If he stays healthy, I could see Stallings hitting .260/.330/.420. A catcher who has a .750 OPS is really, really good, and even more so considering the defensive value that Stallings brings to the table.