Pittsburgh Pirates: Examining the Importance of Jacob Stallings


For more reasons than one catcher Jacob Stallings will be a vital player for the Pittsburgh Pirates this season

The Pittsburgh Pirates are going to be using many young pitchers who have little to no MLB experience this season. Returning from last year will be JT Brubaker, Cody Ponce, Mitch Keller and top relief prospects Blake Cederlind and Nick Mears.

The Pittsburgh Pirates will also see a handful of prospects potentially make their debuts sometime during the 2021 season. Luis Oviedo will most likely make the team’s Opening Day roster given his Rule 5 status and highly touted starting pitching prospect Cody Bolton will almost assuredly debut in 2021.

Wil Crowe is also in line to lock down a back of the rotation spot and while he may not make the Opening Day roster and Miguel Yajure will likely crack the staring rotation this season as well. While both Crowe and Yajure made their MLB debuts last season, both are young pitchers lacking experience.

With all the young talent coming up through the Pirate system it will be beneficial to have a reliable, good backstop. That’s the role Jacob Stallings will play for the Pittsburgh Pirates and he may be one of, if not the most important of the roster heading into 2021.

The Pirates selected Jacob Stallings with their 7th round pick in 2012. Stallings was never much of a hitter through the minors, mainly being a defensive-first backstop. By 2016, his age-26 season, he became the team’s third string catcher. From 2016 to 2018, Stallings only appeared in 24 games and stepped to the plate 72 times.

However, in 2019, Stallings locked down more playing time. With Francisco Cervelli missing most of the season due to concussion issues and Elias Diaz struggling both in the plate and behind the dish Stallings became the team’s primary catcher late into the year.

Now Stallings wasn’t a great batter by any means. In 210 plate appearances, he batted .262/.325/.382 with a .297 wOBA and 82 wRC+. However, he easily made up for it in his defense. Stallings only caught 463.1 innings, but still racked up +14 Defensive Runs Saved and +6 runs through his framing. Despite catching way less innings than league leaders in the two categories like Buster Posey, Yasmani Grandal, JT Realmuto or Austin Hedges, Stallings was fourth in DRS and 9th in framing runs (min. 400 innings).

This last season, the backstop saw his production with the bat take a step forward, putting up a .248/.326/.376 slash line, .309 wOBA and 93 wRC+. Notably, he had a .984 OPS and 173 wRC+ during the month of August.

But we’re here to talk about his defense more than anything. Among backstops with at least 200 innings behind the plate, Stallings was second in DRS at +7 and seventh in framing runs at +2.3. Plus, he’s been recognized as a good game caller and keeps runners at bay with a 33% caught stealing rate. Overall between the last two seasons Stallings has been worth 2.4 fWAR in just 353 plate appearances. Across 600 plate appearances, he’s roughly worth 4.1 fWAR.

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A good catcher can really be a game changer. Stallings is extremely good at what he does and really should inspire confidence in the young pitchers the Pirates are bringing up. The last thing you want is your pitcher to have doubts about themselves when they’re trying to establish their skills in the big leagues.