In 2011, Stallings was the Reds' 42nd round pick, but he didn't sign. He returned to North Carolina where he was a leader in the Tar Heel clubhouse.
In 2012, Stallings got drafted by the Pirates (see Transactions below).
Stallings' father Kevin is the basketball coach at Vanderbilt.
Jacob is the kind of guy who will probably become a manager once his playing days are over. He has a high baseball IQ.
- Stallings never expected his dad to beat him to Pittsburgh. Kevin Stallings was hired as the men's basketball coach at Pitt after his sudden departure from Vanderbilt. His son, Jacob, is a minor league player for the Pirates.
"He's been at Vandy since I was in the fourth grade, 17 years," Jacob said. "It's just wild that it's Pittsburgh. A funny coincidence."
Kevin Stallings was in Bradenton in March 2016 to watch his son work out with the Pirates at his first big league spring training camp. The elder Stallings went to interview at Pitt during the week, then returned to Florida to wait for the decision.
When word of his father's new job started to spread quickly, Stallings was catching a minor league game at Pirate City. Later that afternoon, he drove his dad to the Tampa airport for a flight to Pittsburgh.
"Dad was caught off-guard a little bit because Jamie (coach Dixon) left so abruptly," Stallings said. "He's really excited because Pitt's a great program."
In 2016 spring camp, Stallings hit .308 in his first 10 games with the Pirates. He might begin this season at Triple-A Indianapolis. (AP - March 28, 2016)
The Pirates found themselves with one available catcher on June 18 and an emergency option who had never crouched behind the plate in his professional career.
The Pirates remedied that issue by calling up Jacob from Triple-A Indianapolis on Father's Day 2016. Stallings made his Major League debut that night, starting behind the plate against the Cubs. "Sunday night in Wrigley, that's pretty cool," Stallings said before finishing 0-for-4 in his debut and a 10-5 loss. "I came here when I was a kid to watch a game one time. That's the only time I've been here."
Stallings received word from Indianapolis manager Dean Treanor that he'd been called up. He hopped on a direct flight from Charlotte, NC to Chicago. He told his family, and they made it here before he did. Stallings has always been close with his father, new University of Pittsburgh basketball coach Kevin Stallings, who tweeted that his son's callup was the "Best Father's Day gift ever!" (Berry - MLB.com - 6/19/16)
A baseball player’s walk-up song is his identity. It can have as great of an association as a batting stance and it can, sometimes, be more memorable than one’s signature haircut or facial hair. For Jacob Stallings, however, his walk-up song is more than an identity. It’s a way of life. A seventh-round pick from the University of North Carolina, has been a mainstay in the Pirates‘ organization since being drafted in 2012. Another constant in the catcher’s rise through the minor leagues is his walk-up song, “Awesome God” by R-Swift.
“I’ve been using it for five years, now. I would say that was about the time that I really started listening to Christian music,” Stallings said. “That was in a time in my faith where I was reading the Bible a lot and really getting into the word and growing a lot in my faith. I decided to change my walk-up song to this and, shortly thereafter, I had one of the best months of my career. So I just kind of stuck with it ever since.” (Peyton Wesner-Fansided-Aug. 30, 2017)
Stallings started using the song in 2013 while playing for High-A Bradenton. He first heard the rap thanks to his wife, Amy Beth, who included it in “a couple CDs of Christian songs.” The pair agreed the R-Swift single would make the perfect pre-bat track for the devoted believer. After all, the Kansas native had grown up going to church on Sundays and always considered himself a Christian. Yet, Stallings credits his faith’s evolution to an impromptu conversation during his freshman season at North Carolina.
Whenever his next plate appearance in Pittsburgh may be, you can count on the uplifting lyrics of “Awesome God” ringing inside PNC Park as Stallings steps into the batter’s box.
“It’s cool to be able to do something so easy,” he said. “For other people to come up and say something is cool. It’s an easy way to start a conversation about God. I’ve never thought about changing it ever since I got it.”
The Brentwood Academy product was talking to senior catcher Mike McKee when a discussion on the history of Jesus Christ’s life ensued. McKee, the future pastor at Image Church-ATL, elaborated upon the historically proven facts and then recommended a book, which greatly impacted Stallings.
“I’m a big history guy, a big fact guy, so that really got me interested,” said Stallings of his discussion with McKee. “He told me to read More Than a Carpenter, the book by Josh McDowell. Other than the Bible, it’s the most influential book of my life. It kind of lays out arguments against Christianity and for Christianity. It’s just a really cool book. Ever since I talked to him and read that book, I’ve really taken the next steps in my faith.” (Peyton Wesner-Fansided-Aug. 30, 2017)
Along with continued strides as a Christian, fatherhood welcomed Stallings with the birth of his son Emmitt last March. In less than six months, the Pirates catcher describes being a father as ‘fun.’
“It’s been fun so far. He’s been a pretty easy baby,” Stallings said with a smile. “Everybody says, ‘It will change your life’ and you really don’t know what that means until you go through it.”
In addition to receiving daily joy, the 27-year-old attributes a stronger grasp of perspective thanks to the start of his family. “Anytime I have a bad night, and I go home and he’s just smiling at me, it’s hard to stay in a bad mood,” he said. “It definitely has helped keep things in perspective and, probably more so than anything else, just keep the bad nights at the field.”
The only bad nights Emmitt has produced, thus far, have been in the car. Stallings says his only complaint is the ‘constant crying’ from his son on road trips. “Whenever my wife has to travel by herself, it’s just constant crying, so I feel bad about that.” (Peyton Wesner-Fansided-Aug. 30, 2017)
April 17, 2020: Pittsburgh’s starting backstop checks all the boxes, and not just because catchers tend to make good managers. He’s a student of the game, someone lauded for his intense preparation even when he’s not playing. He has also shown a desire to continue learning, as evidenced by his (successful) efforts to improve his pitch-framing. That kind of flexible mindset is almost mandatory for modern managers, as technology and data continue to change the game.
Teammates rave about Stallings’ communication skills, and pitchers love throwing to him. He became so many starters’ personal catcher late last season that he wound up as the starter by default. Stallings has shown an ability to mesh with everyone—established veterans like Chris Archer, young big leaguers like Joe Musgrove, and prospects like Mitch Keller. While he’s not the loudest voice or the most outgoing personality in the clubhouse, it’s easy to see Stallings emerging as a quiet but respected leader given the trust teammates have in him.
On top of all that, coaching is in his blood. Stallings is the son of longtime college basketball coach Kevin Stallings, who worked as a head coach at Illinois State, Vanderbilt and Pittsburgh from 1993-2018. Stallings used to help his father with some behind-the-scenes work. How much more prepared could he be to someday step into the manager’s office? (A Berry - MLB.com - April 17, 2020)
2020 Season: After an elite defensive season in 2019, Stallings was named a finalist for the National League Gold Glove Award.
Entering the season, Jacob was going to be a starting MLB catcher for the first time in his career. While it was a shortened season, he did not waste the opportunity that he was given by the Pirates.
Stallings hit for a .248/.326/.376 slash line to go with a 93 wRC+. He had a healthy 10.5% walk rate, and a strong 89.2 MPH exit velocity. While his wRC+ was 7 points below league average it was strong for a catcher, especially a catcher that is as strong defensively as Stallings is.
In 2020, Stallings was worth a fWAR of 1.1. Despite playing in just 42 games, this was the second highest fWAR of his career. Over the course of a full season, this would put Stallings on pace to be worth a fWAR of 4.2.
A big reason Stallings had such a strong fWAR was the defense he played for the Pirates. According to FanGraphs, his defensive war of 6.3 was tied with Omar Navarez for best in the National League. It was higher than Tucker Barnhart and Willson Contreras, the two other NL Gold Glove Award finalists.
The 1.1 fWAR Stallings posted was 5th best in the NL, better than Barnhart but behind Contreras. Among catchers with at least 100 innings caught, Stallings ranked second by posting a +7 Defensive Runs Saved. While he was behind Barnhart (+9 DRS), Stallings caught nearly 100 more innings than Barnhart. As for Contreras, his DRS was just +1.
Speaking of innings pitched, Stallings caught 345 innings for the Pirates. Where did this rank in the NL? First. That's right, Stallings caught more innings than any other catcher in the NL in 2020.
Stallings also excelled at framing the ball. His His 2.3 framing rate via FanGraphs was the fifth best in the National League. Of the three Gold Glove Award finalists, it was the highest.
No matter what stat you want to use, Stallings was an elite defensive catcher for the Pirates in 2020. (Marty Leap - Oct. 24, 2020)
June 2012: Jacob signed with the Pirates after they chose him in the 7th round, out of the Univ. of North Carolina. He received a $10,000 bonus. (Editor's note: What a bargain.)
Jan 15, 2021: The Pirates avoided arbitration with Jacob, agreeing to a one-year contract for $1.3 million.
- Nov. 28, 2021: The Pirates traded Gold Glove catcher Jacob Stallings to the Marlins; acquiring pitcher Zach Thompson and prospects Kyle Nicolas and Connor Scott.
|Birth City:||Lawrence, KS|
|Draft:||Pirates #7 - 2012 - Out of Univ. of No. Carolina|
Stallings is a cerebral sort of guy. He believes his average rose in 2015 because his amount of thinking went down.
"I just try to focus on getting better every day,” Stallings said in 2016. “I just try to do my best when I’m in the lineup, and I try to help the pitcher do his best any time I’m back there with him.
“I want to help the team win. I think that mentality has helped me tune out the clutter and not worry about the stuff I can’t control.”
August 7, 2018: The Indianapolis Indians put some gaudy numbers on the scoreboard during their 12-5 victory over the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, knocking out 18 hits in the process. In the bottom of the eighth inning, Kevin Newman seemingly put the cherry on top of the win by crushing a solo homer to left off Jake Thompson to give the Indians their first cycle since now-Pirates big leaguer Josh Bell in 2016.
Newman tallied his cycle by doubling in the first, singling in the third, tripling in the fifth and, of course, going deep in the eighth. (He also added a second double in the sixth to go 5-for-5.) It was unlikely enough that he managed to put the cycle together, as he just had one triple and three homers in 102 games on the season prior to this game ... but the Indians had another surprise in store.
Two batters after Newman's dinger, Jacob stepped into the batter's box. He was actually a hit away from the cycle, too. He had doubled in the first, homered in the fourth and singled in the sixth; but he was missing the toughest part: the triple. And Stallings had tripled just once in the past four years combined. He got his triple.
Incredibly, both Newman and Stallings hit for the cycle in the same game. That had never been done by teammates in MLB history. But by remarkable coincidence, it also happened earlier this year for two other minor leaguers, San Jose Giants Gio Brusa and Jalen Miller. (Mearns - mlb.com)
- As of the start of the 2021 season, Jacob's career Major League stats were: .262 batting average, 9 home runs and 100 hits with 41 RBI in 382 at-bats.
Jacob is a very impressive catcher on defense. He has a plus arm and is known for keeping opponents at bay on the base paths.
One of the things that impressed Pirates manager Derek Shelton about Jacob’s work behind the plate: “Professionalism’s one of the things that really stands out—his ability to take a game plan from the pitching group and then watch him implement it in terms of conversations with players and then even in games,” Shelton said. “Then the receiving really stands out. I don’t think I got a full appreciation for his receiving during Spring Training.”
In 2019, Stallings took tremendous strides defensively and worked to stay sharp even during his downtime. The 30-year-old felt comfortable with his pitch-framing at the bottom of the zone and around the edges last season, but he described himself as only “about average” at the top of the zone. So he focused on how to handle high pitches in his conversations with Pirates coach Glenn Sherlock and bullpen catcher Jordan Comadena, asking them for input while studying well regarded framers like Yasmani Grandal and Sandy León.
You won’t hear Stallings complain about the workload in 2020, especially since he prepared in the offseason to start a majority of Pittsburgh’s games. “I feel a lot better than I probably would if we had played a normal season and it was July,” he said. (Berry - mlb.com - 7/5/2020)
Nov 2020: Jacob grew up dreaming about winning a Gold Glove. But Stallings wasn’t sure he’d ever hit well enough to even play in the big leagues.
“That was like, ‘Major League Baseball player? Eh. Maybe I’d be good enough to win the Gold Glove if they DH’d for me or something,’” Stallings said, grinning. “It would be a dream come true, simple as that.”
Stallings’ dream did not come true, as Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart emerged on top of the NL field to win a Gold Glove over fellow finalists Stallings and Willson Contreras of the Cubs.
In 2020, Stallings finished with a 2.9 SABR Defensive Index (SDI), the metric used to determine this year’s Gold Glove winners. Cleveland’s Roberto Pérez (5.1) and Barnhart (4.7) were the only catchers to post a higher mark during this shortened season.
The 2020 season began with questions about whether the Pirates had a legitimate starting catcher on their roster. It ended with Stallings standing as one of only two or three Pittsburgh players to solidify a starting role heading into next season.
“Certainly at the end of last year, it was a goal of mine—and a goal I wasn’t sure would be realistic,” Stallings said. “You just never really know. So many things have to fall into place. I didn’t know at the time if I was going to be a starter, what my role was going to be.”
Stallings and second baseman Adam Frazier both finished second in the SDI rankings at their respective positions. Pittsburgh’s most recent Gold Glove catcher is Mike LaValliere (1987). But Stallings had a strong case to change that.
He caught more innings this season (345) than any other catcher in the NL. He led all NL catchers with 22 assists, and he tied Yadier Molina for games played (42) while starting the second-most games among NL backstops (40, to Molina’s 42). He caught nine runners stealing, tied with Contreras for most in the league.
The advanced metrics were similarly favorable for Stallings. His excellent pitch-framing, a skill he refined after being designated for assignment in 2019, totaled two runs from extra strikes this season, according to Statcast. Only Barnhart (nine) finished with more Defensive Runs Saved than Stallings (seven).
Stallings has earned the respect of his teammates, especially Pirates pitchers, due to his diligent preparation and feel for game-calling. It is perhaps no coincidence that left-hander Steven Brault dominated in his final two starts of the season, for instance, while leaning completely on Stallings’ decision-making behind the plate.
"Every year he gets better, which I think is a very admirable thing. It's not easy, especially when you're in the big leagues, to keep continuing to get better every year,” Brault said in September. “I think what's cool about what Stallings does is he is so into it and he works with the pitchers so much and he works with [catching coach] Glenn Sherlock and he works with ‘Funky,’ the bullpen catcher [Jordan Comadena], and they're super into it and all the analytics of catching and everything. And then also he's a great guy.”
Stallings was named the Clemente Award winner (Pirates team MVP) and Chuck Tanner Award (most cooperative with the media) by the Pittsburgh chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. The 30-year-old paired his defensive prowess with a serviceable .248/.326/.376 slash line and 18 RBIs in 42 games this year.
Manager Derek Shelton recognized Stallings’ defensive ability when he began watching 2019 Pirates games after he was hired. Watching from the dugout, it didn’t take long for Shelton to become his catcher’s biggest advocate.
Five games into the season, Shelton said he would be “hard-pressed to bet … that there’s been anybody better catching in baseball this year.” A month later, on Aug. 29, he repeated that claim and added that “people are missing it” if they don’t have Stallings atop the list of Gold Glove candidates. Throughout September, Shelton went out of his way to campaign for Stallings.
Stallings didn’t win an award, but he’s won the trust and respect of his coaches and teammates.
“I think he’s done a nice job. Not only is he helping those pitchers grow, but I think we’re seeing him grow,” Shelton said on Sept. 22. “There’s a guy there that’s an elite receiver, an elite thrower and, again, in my mind, a guy who should win the Gold Glove.” (A Berry - MLB.com - Nov 4, 2020)
Feb 2021: Spring Training is nearly here, and with that comes roster decisions and fresh looks at those in the Pirates’ pipeline. Starting catcher: Jacob Stallings. Stallings earned the starting job in 2019, and he hasn’t given the Pirates much reason to turn to anyone else. The 31-year-old provides a serviceable bat near the bottom of the lineup, slashing .256/.326/.380 with 12 doubles and nine homers across the past two seasons.
Where Stallings excels is on defense. His pop time of 1.99 seconds is league average, and it helped him throw out nine runners in 2020, which was tied for the second-best mark in baseball.
Pitchers have spoken highly of his ability to call games and put his body on the line to keep wild pitches in front of him. Stallings’ framing ability has also become a highlight; last season, he ranked seventh in catcher framing (FRM), per Fangraphs. Combine that with the rest of his defensive skill set, and he ranked second among all catchers with seven defensive runs saved.
“Every pitch that you throw, you know that he’s working his tail off to get [a strike] for you,” Mitch Keller said of Stallings. “If it’s three baseballs outside, he’s going to try and get you that strike. It’s a real big confidence boost for all of us pitchers having him back there, knowing he’s working really hard for every pitch.” (J Crouse - MLB.com - Feb 3, 2021)
In 2021, Stallings won his first Rawlings Gold Glove for catcher in the NL. Stallings had not caught more than a half-season’s worth of games before 2021, spending time as a backup behind Elias Díaz and Francisco Cervelli from 2016-2019. But this season, at age 31, when you’d expect catcher production to decline, Stallings only got better. That was especially true on defense, and it led to some hardware.
“To be honest, it’s kind of been the highest individual achievement that I ever felt like I could probably win," Stallings said after the announcement. "Growing up, I wondered if I could win the Gold Glove. I didn’t know if I could get to the big leagues … but the Gold Glove was always kind of the one that was like, ‘Maybe I could actually do that.’" The metrics were eye-popping over 104 games (103 starts) behind the dish. Stallings’ 21 defensive runs saved were tied with Astros shortstop Carlos Correa as the most recorded by any player at any position. Among all Major League catchers, Stallings was the only one to not allow a passed ball all season. (J Crouse - MLb.com - Nov 7, 2021)
May 8-June 10, 2018: Stallings was on the DL.
April 18-May 26, 2019: Jacob was on the IL with cervical neck strain.
Sept 27-28, 2020: Jacob was on the IL with concussion.
- Sept 20-28, 2021: Jacob was on the IL with concussion.