Welcome to episode 11 of the Pirates Playoff Projections series!
If you read my intro to the Bucs Dugout site back in July, you’ll remember that I’m a big fantasy baseball fan, which makes me a bit of a numbers/projections guy at times. I still use the eye test plenty to help me find players I like, and there’s nothing quite like enjoying a Pirates baseball game with the emotional interest of a lifelong fan, but I love the statisical, fantasy side of the game as well.
With that in mind, I thought it might be a worthwhile project to start projecting what key Pirates players will need to do in 2020 if the Bucs are going to shock the league and end up in the playoffs come October. I know, I know, it’s a stretch based on the season we all just witnessed. But with a new manager and staff coming together, I figured it’s a good time for some optimism.
Each week I’ll pick a player and go through what their 2020 season might look like under the assumption that they’re able to help lead the black and gold to their first playoff appearance since 2015. Let’s go Bucs!
After letting Elias Diaz go and signing a platoon-style catcher in Luke Maile this offseason, the Pittsburgh Pirates new front office showed their confidence in Jacob Stallings as their starting (or at least majority split) catcher for 2020.
Stallings had a quiet breakout in 2019 behind a bust in once top prospect Diaz. In just 210 plate appearances, the 30-year-old right-handed hitter collected six homers and put up a respectable .262 batting average. The .325 on-base percentage was probably the most impressive hitting feat of all, as he consistently found ways to keep innings alive for the Buccos, especially late in close games.
A .303 BABIP and a 11.6% HR/FB rate look very sustainable based on career numbers, and the eye test shows good bat skills with clearly solid vision at the plate. He’s not going to blow you away over the course of a season, but double-digit homers and a reasonable OBP from a good defensive catcher is certainly valuable these days.
Speaking of defense, that’s what Pirates fans will continue to love most about Stallings. He has proven to have a great rapport with most pitchers on the Pittsburgh staff, and he threw out his fair share of runners in 2019. He threw out eight of 20 attempted base stealers last year while allowing just four passed balls in his 463.1 innings pitched. He’ll continue providing much more than we saw from Diaz, and Maile as a back-up shouldn’t be much of a drop-off either.
I actually feel fine about this combo of catchers heading into 2020. I would love to get a young catching prospect somehow to begin developing behind these guys too, but this is a good pairing for now.
Let’s see what a Stallings season might look like on paper if he were to help lead the Buccos to a miraculous playoff appearance this year.
Jacob Stallings 2020:
103 games played
415 plate appearances
.265 BA with a .325 OBP
11 home runs, 47 runs, 51 RBI, and 2 stolen bases
Don’t forget some AWESOME defense.
What do YOU think? Give me some over, under, or just rights down in the comments below. I’m also always happy to hear your thoughts on more in-depth statistics like HR/FB, Hard Hit Percentage, BABIP, and more. Hope you’re all having a good offseason so far, and I’ll be back next week to tackle another Bucco stat line for 2020. Until then, Let’s go Bucs!