Catcher – Jacob Stallings
Though the Pittsburgh Pirates have added a ton of catching talent in the past 8 months, much of it isn’t going to be ready until 2023 or 2024. Unless Carter Bins or Abraham Gutierrez hit huge strides over the next year, I have Jacob Stallings as the team’s backstop. Though that isn’t a problem at all.
Stallings went from a depth catcher to arguably one of the most underrated players at his position. He’s been about a league-average hitter this year putting up a .237/.328/.391 with a .317 wOBA, and 98 wRC+. Those are all career-best marks. His 11.3% walk rate and .153 ISO are also career-best marks. Though Stallings’ calling card is his defensive ability.
Stallings leads all of baseball in DRS. With +18, he outdoes top defensive right fielder Joey Gallo by 4, and the next closest catcher, Sean Murphy, has 9 fewer DRS. He hasn’t been as great at throwing out runners this year compared to prior seasons with a 22% caught stealing rate. But don’t weigh it too heavily. Caught stealing rate is far from a perfect way of looking at his defensive success. Though he has helped his pitchers out a whole lot. His +4.5 framing runs ranks 8th among all backstops with at least 200 innings caught.
Stallings is on pace for over 3.0 fWAR this year. He’s always been a fantastic defender, but his bat has slowly improved over time. His wRC+ in 2019 was just 82, then jumped to 93 in 2020, and now sits as about a league-average bat with a high-end glove.