JACOB STALLINGS, CATCHER
|Born: December 22, 1989
Drafted: 7th Round, 226th Overall, 2012
How Acquired: Draft
College: University of North Carolina
WTM’s PLAYER PROFILE
|The Pirates probably drafted Stallings, a college senior, as high as they did in an effort to conserve pool money for their attempt to sign Mark Appel. He was known as a clubhouse leader and good defensive player who controls the running game well. He set an NCAA record by throwing out 32 would-be base stealers in 2011, with the result that teams seldom ran on him in 2012. He didn’t hit for a good average in college, but drew a lot of walks. He showed doubles power on a team that didn’t seem to play in a good hitting environment; he was second on the team in slugging in 2012. He profiled from the start as a potential backup catcher. Not surprisingly, Stallings agreed to terms shortly after the draft. He signed for $10,000, well below the slot amount of $148,000.
Stallings had a solid debut at State College, playing about the way his college record suggested. He didn’t hit for average, but he drew walks and hit some doubles. The obvious problem was striking out in a third of his at-bats. Stallings hit well in July, posting an .826 OPS, but slumped to .624 in August. He played well defensively, among other things throwing out 36% of base stealers. Because the Pirates don’t emphasis the move to first with their young pitchers, that’s an impressive number. Stallings made a cameo appearance at Altoona when the Curve needed a player and got a hit in his only AB.
Stallings was the primary catcher at Bradenton, although Elias Diaz saw a lot of action. Stallings obviously didn’t hit for average and, at one in four ABs, struck out a bit too much, but he had a high walk rate and hit for decent power, although the latter tended to come in brief hot stretches. He hit very well against LHPs, with an .861 OPS, but managed only a .642 figure against RHPs. Surprisingly, Stallings threw out only 21% of base stealers, but that may have had more to do with the pitchers. He showed very good receiving skills.
Stallings returned to Bradenton and shared catching duties with Jin-De Jhang. At the plate, Stallings hit for a higher average, but walked a lot less and hit for less power. He threw out 32% of base stealers and committed only two passed balls in 68 games.
Stallings shared the catching duties at Altoona with Sebastian Valle. He hit for easily the best average of his career, although it probably resulted from a .340 BABIP that he isn’t likely to repeat. His plate discipline actually declined. He had a .725 OPS against LHPs and .666 against RHPs. Defensively, Stallings continued to show excellent receiving and throwing skills. He threw out 37% base stealers, committed only three errors, and didn’t have a single passed ball. (Valle had only one, which is pretty remarkable.) Stallings was eligible for the Rule 5 draft after the season, but wasn’t selected.
Stallings opened the season at Indianapolis, sharing the catching duties with Ed Easley while Elias Diaz was on the disabled list. Stallings hit very little, apart from solid power. He hit LHPs well, with a 273/324/500 line, but had a very difficult time with RHPs, managing only 191/222/296 against them. He continued, to show strong receiving skills and threw out 36% of base stealers. With Elias Diaz hurt most of the year and Easley eventually being released, Stallings caught over half of Indy’s games. When both Elias Diaz and Francisco Cervelli got hurt, the Pirates called up Stallings up as a backup. He started two games for them, but when Chris Stewart also went on the disabled list, they claimed Eric Fryer off the disabled list and outrighted Stallings back to AAA. They called him back up to the majors, though, in mid-September when Stewart went out for the season. He had one big moment, winning an extra-inning game with a walkoff single.
The Pirates outrighted Stallings again after the 2016 season and he evidently did not declare free agency, which he was eligible to do as a player who’d been outrighted twice. After getting hit with their usual run of catcher injuries, though, the Pirates called Stallings up in June. He got into two games, then went back to AAA. The Pirates brought him back in early September and he again got into just two games. While in AAA, Stallings had by far his best offensive season, drastically improving his walk and K rates while still showing some power. He was buoyed by a huge month of August in which he posted a .998 OPS. He continued to play well defensively, committing just one passed ball and throwing out 37% of base stealers.
Stallings got called up five separate times due to injuries, mostly to Cervelli. That included a September callup. He saw only limited playing time, though, as the Pirates stuck with Diaz as much as possible when Cervelli was out. During his time in AAA, Stallings continued to hit well. He even hit for a cycle late in the season, which is remarkable for a guy with six triples in a seven-year career. He threw out 27% of base stealers in the minors and two of nine with the Pirates.
Stallings started 2019 with the Pirates scrambling to find ways to retain him, given his lack of options, and ended it as the team’s starting catcher. He opened on the roster due to Diaz being out with an illness. Once Diaz returned, the Pirates put Stallings on the injured list with a neck sprain and eventually sent him on rehab. When the rehab ran out, they designated him for assignment and outrighted him to AAA when he cleared waivers. Barely over a week later, though, Cervelli predictably suffered another concussion and the Pirates called Stallings back up. He stayed with the Pirates the rest of the year and, by early August, displaced Diaz as the starter for the simple reason that he played much better both offensively and defensively. Stallings hit respectably, with a 91 OPS+, thanks in part to him starting to show a little over-the-fence power. Defensively, he ranked well in pitch-framing, committed only four passed balls and threw out 40% of base stealers.
Stallings was the Pirates’ starting catcher and was one of the few position players on the team to have a respectable season. In fact, he was about the only one until Ke’Bryan Hayes came up. His defense remained very good in all phases, including pitch-framing. In fact, he was a Gold Glove finalist, although he didn’t win. He threw out 33% of opposing base stealers. At the plate, Stallings was extremely hot in August, batting 392/475/510, although a lot of that was due to an unsustainable BABIP. He slumped badly in September, ending up with numbers that are probably more or less realistic; his 92 OPS+ was very close to league-average for a catcher. That’s enough to make him above-average at the position.
Stallings continued as he had the year before and now is a fixture on the Pirates. He was a slightly above average hitter for a catcher and finally started receiving recognition as one of the game’s best defensive catchers, arguably the best. That recognition included the NL Gold Glove. Stallings rated above average in pitch framing and didn’t commit a single passed ball. He threw out only 21% of base stealers, but considering the state of the Pirates’ pitching staff, that wasn’t likely his doing. He also continued his flair for late-inning offensive dramatics, with four walk-off RBIs. Two of those were on home runs, one a grand slam.
Stallings has been remarkably successful for a player who was probably drafted as an organizational guy and who was outrighted three times. He gives the team one of its few solid regulars. He’s also drawn some trade interest, as he’d be a clear upgrade for a lot of teams, but the Pirates will be very reluctant to move him as they consider him important to their attempts to develop a young pitching staff.
2020: Major league minimum
|Signing Bonus: $10,000
MiLB Debut: 2012
MLB Debut: 6/19/2016
MiLB FA Eligible: N/A
MLB FA Eligible: 2024
Rule 5 Eligible: N/A
Added to 40-Man: 6/19/2016 (removed on 5/17/2019)
Options Remaining: 0 (USED: 2016, 2017, 2018)
MLB Service Time: 3.143
|June 8, 2011: Drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the 42nd round, 1285th overall pick.
June 5, 2012: Drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 7th round, 226th overall pick; signed on June 13.
June 19, 2016: Contract purchased by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
July 5, 2016: Designated for assignment by the Pittsburgh Pirates; outrighted to AAA on July 6.
September 13, 2016: Called up by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
November 2, 2016: Outrighted to AAA by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
June 7, 2017: Called up by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
May 17, 2019: Outrighted to AAA by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
May 26, 2019: Called up by the Pittsburgh Pirates.