DEON STAFFORD, CATCHER
|Born: March 17, 1996
Drafted: 5th Round, 148th Overall, 2017
How Acquired: Draft
College: St Joseph’s
WTM’s PLAYER PROFILE
|Stafford entered 2017 as the top prospect in the Atlantic 10 Conference thanks to a huge sophomore season in which he hit 395/486/782, earning conference player of the year. He then backed up that showing with a 283/377/509 line in the wood-bat Cape Cod League. His junior season, though, was a disappointment as he hit 288/464/521, with the high OBP resulting from other teams pitching around him based on his reputation. Apart from being pitched around, scouts also thought he had trouble with better pitching. Stafford moves well behind the plate, but lacks arm strength to control the running game and there are some doubts about him sticking at catcher. If he can regain his prior success with the bat, of course, he’ll be able to play a corner position. Baseball America had him ranked 131st in the draft class, while MLB Pipeline did not consider him a top 200 prospect. The Pirates signed him for $21,500 under the slot amount.
Stafford had a solid debut with Morgantown, showing pretty good power. The New York-Penn League had a power outage in 2017, with the league as a whole slugging just .340; Stafford’s figure of .418 would have been good enough for 11th in the league, but he fell just short of the plate appearances needed to qualify. He struck out a lot, which is a concern. His hitting tailed off over the course of the season, as shown by his monthly OPS:
June (5 games): .912
Stafford had a sizeable platoon split, posting an OPS of .851 against LHPs and .703 against RHPs. He caught about half the team’s games and threw out 24% of base stealers, committing only one passed ball. He missed a little time with a concussion, which is a particular concern for catchers.
The Pirates most often, but not always, send early-round college draftees to Bradenton for their first full seasons. Stafford, however, spent 2018 at West Virginia, with Jason Delay jumping over him to go to Bradenton. The decision may have reflected Delay being ahead of Stafford defensively. As it was, Stafford had a mildly disappointing season. He didn’t hit badly, but for a college draftee the numbers needed to be better. Stafford missed a few games here and there with minor injuries, including a brief trip to the disabled list that started in late July. When he returned in early August, he went on his best power spree of the season, slugging .544 and hitting six of his 11 home runs in 23 August games. On the season, Stafford’s plate discipline remained marginal. He hammered LHPs for a .959 OPS, but managed only .685 against RHPs. He had trouble with errors, committing a dozen, but he threw out 27% of base stealers, which was only a little below the league average of 34%.
Stafford was the regular catcher at Bradenton in 2019, but only caught a little more than half the team’s games. That was mainly because he was out until late April with an oblique injury. After going 0-for-10 in two April games, Stafford had three solid months (.767 OPS in May, .795 in June and .717 in July) before collapsing in August (.482). Overall, his line was very close to the league average of 242/313/353. He had a mild platoon split, with an OPS of .647 against RHPs and .709 against LHPs. Stafford did not do well with the running game, throwing out only 18%.
Stafford’s numbers at Bradenton in 2019 weren’t terrible, but he wasn’t young for the league and his defense isn’t strong. His bat will have to carry him and hasn’t really come around yet. The Pirates brought him to their alternate training site at Altoona in 2020 after Christian Kelley got hurt. Stafford is eligible for the Rule 5 draft.
|2021: Minor league contract
|Signing Bonus: $315,000
MiLB Debut: 2017
MiLB FA Eligible: 2023
MLB FA Eligible:
Rule 5 Eligible: 2020
Added to 40-Man:
Options Remaining: 3
MLB Service Time: 0.000
|June 13, 2017: Drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 5th round, 148th overall pick; signed on June 20.|