Pirates Catcher Jacob Stallings wins Gold Glove

Stallings is the first Pirates catcher to win the Gold Glove for catchers since 1987

Written By Antonio Rossetti, Co-Sports Editor

Although the Pirates finished 61-101 at the bottom of the National League Central, there were some bright spots for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Jacob Stallings was one of those players who consistently helped the team win games. On Nov. 7, 2021, the 31-year-old catcher won the Gold Glove as the best defensive catcher in Major League Baseball (MLB).

In his first season as an everyday catcher, Stallings started 104 with 103 of those games coming behind the dish. In those 103 games, Stallings was the only starting catcher to not be charged with a passed ball. Stallings also had 21 defensive runs saved, which was at the top in most runs saved. The sixth-year Pirates catcher held a .995 fielding percentage and only committed 5 errors throughout the season.

In Stallings’ route to winning the award, he beat out 9-time gold glove winner and 4-time platinum glove winner Yadier Molina and one-time Gold Glove winner JT Realmuto. Molina won all his awards throughout his 18-year career with the St. Louis Cardinals, and Realmuto won his Gold Glove award in 2019 with the Philadelphia Phillies.

Other Pirates players who were nominated as finalists for the Gold Glove awards were center fielder Bryan Reynolds and shortstop Kevin Newman. Both Newman and Reynolds fell short on winning the reward, but both had strong years defensively. Newman finished with the highest fielding percentage amongst shortstops, having a .993 fielding percentage.

Stallings’ accomplishment was the first time a Pirates player won the illustrious award since 2091 when Corey Dickerson won Gold Glove for left fielders. Stallings is also the first Pittsburgh catcher to win the award since Mike LaValliere in 1987. There have only been three Pirates catchers to win the Gold Glove. The first to do it was Tony Pena who won the Gold Glove three times as a member of the Black and Gold in 1983,1984 and 1985. Pena also won the award for the Boston Red Sox in 1991.

Stallings’ effort and passion towards the game of baseball are what led him to winning the award. Stallings was drafted in the 42nd round to the Cincinnati Reds in 2011. However,​​ he forgoed signing with the Reds and played one more season at the University of North Carolina. After one more season with the Tar Heels, the Pirates selected him in the 7th round of the 2012 MLB Draft.

Stallings would sign with the Pirates, but it would take him four years to get called up to Pittsburgh’s MLB roster in 2016. In that same year, Stallings was designated for assignment (DFA) and went back to the minor league. Stallings had stints of playing in the MLB in 2017 and 2018. Nevertheless, it wasn’t until 2019 he would see everyday action.

Despite being on the everyday roster, Stallings platooned with current Colorado Rockies catcher Elias Diaz.

In 2020, Diaz signed with the Colorado Rockies, which left the starting job for Jacob Stallings. However, the MLB only played a shortened 60 game season, compared to a 162 game season.

In 2021, Stallings finally got his chance to shine and proved his worth. Stallings doesn’t impress many with his running speed or athleticism, but he was a key part to the Pirates. Stallings is a catcher who doesn’t let up passed balls and has been a significant focus to the team’s lineup. Stallings batted .246 with 8 home runs. The 31-year-old catcher has especially clutch this season. The veteran catcher hit four walk offs and has seven walk offs throughout his career. Two of those walk offs were home runs, including a grand slam off of Edwin Diaz and the New York Mets.

Stallings’ first year as a starter was a career year for him. He had career highs in home runs, runs batted in (RBI), runs scored and hits. Although he didn’t win rewards in batting, Stallings was proficient on both offense and defense.

The veteran catcher has grinded out a memorable six year career. He went from being DFA’d in 2016 to becoming the league’s best defensive catcher in 2021. His winning of the Gold Glove award is a testament to his 6-year career and shows that it doesn’t matter how long it takes you to make the MLB. After years of waiting behind the likes of Francisco Cervelli, Stallings finally got his chance and came up in the clutch, winning the Gold Glove award.

Stallings is arbitration eligible for 2022 and 2023 and is expected to be the Pirates starting catcher in 2022.