In a rough season for the Pittsburgh Pirates organization, this former Tar Heel turned out to be one of the lone bright spots for the club in 2020.
Heading into the 2020 season, the Pittsburgh Pirates were uncertain about their catching situation. The organization wasn’t sure that they had a catcher (or catchers) in place to handle the grind of the upcoming 60-game schedule.
However, Jacob Stallings proved that he’s more than capable of handling the job.
The former Tar Heel’s story is rather interesting. Stallings was selected by the Pirates in the seventh round of the 2012 MLB Amateur Draft, and worked his way to the big leagues in 2016. After three seasons of very short stints in the bigs, the backstop saw more playtime, but ended up being designated for assignment.
After clearing waivers, Stallings was able to stay in the Pirates organization. This was a blessing in disguise for the Pirates, as Stallings ended up becoming the team’s starting catcher this season.
Not only did he become a starter, but became one of the Pirates most productive players. Over 42 games, the 30-year-old posted a slash line of .248/.362/.376 in 142 plate appearances. Along with his steady offensive production, Stallings was even more valuable defensively. His pitch calling ability combined with elite framing, blocking and throwing ability was a valuable part of the team’s defense.
For his efforts this season, Stallings earned the Roberto Clemente Award, which serves as the award given to the Pirates Team Most Valuable Player. The award is voted on by the members of the Pittsburgh chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America.
The former Tar Heel received 14 of the 15 first-place votes for the Roberto Clemente Award. Along with this honor, Stallings also was one of the top two finalists for the Chuck Tanner Award, which is presented to a Pirates player for media cooperation.
For someone who didn’t have a place on this Pirates roster just a year prior, this is a pretty remarkable story. It looks like Jacob Stallings has earned his place as a big league catcher for the foreseeable future.
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