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Pirates 2021 Season Preview: Catchers

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What can we expect from Jacob Stallings in 2021?

Pittsburgh Pirates v Atlanta Braves Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

Pittsburgh Pirates Catchers

The production from the Pittsburgh Pirates backstops last season was like a pillowcase on Halloween. You got some candy and treats you liked, some you didn’t, and some you didn’t really care for.

In 2021, it appears there’s still enough Halloween candy left in the pillowcase.

The likely starter

Jacob Stallings

Pittsburgh Pirates v Atlanta Braves Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

Stallings enters the season as the starting catcher for a third consecutive year for the Pirates after claiming full-time duties in 2019. However, Stallings is looking for a bounce back year after a disappointing 2020.

Stallings saw his batting average drop from .262 to .248 and his WAR dropped from 1.5 to 1.0.

Stallings also didn’t have the kind of Spring Training you’d want in what you would hope to be a bounce back year. He batted just .156 in the Grapefruit League, managing just five hits in 38 at-bats.

Defensively, Stallings provides enough to the table to forgive his below average offensive numbers. Last year, he saved seven defensive runs, which puts him second amongst all catchers in Major League Baseball.

Having a veteran behind the plate that can call the right pitches and frame the ball well when you’ll have a bunch of pitchers shuffling between here and the minors is crucial, and it’s Stallings’ biggest strength.

The rest

Michael Pérez

MLB: MAR 22 Spring Training - Orioles at Pirates Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Pirates are only carrying two catchers to start the season and Pérez will back up Stallings after beating out veterans Joe Hudson, Tony Wolters and last year’s second catcher Andrew Susac for the job.

Pérez spent his first three years in the big leagues in the same role as a backup catcher with the Tampa Bay Rays. Now Pérez will bring his postseason (and World Series) experience to the ‘Burgh.

Pérez has not shown much pop in the bigs, but there is potential there. In 52 games with AAA Durham in 2019, he hit 13 home runs in 52 games. That’s one homer for every four games.

If last year’s catcher rotation was any indication for what Derek Shelton may do this season, we should expect to see a decent amount of playing time for Pérez. Stallings played in 70% of the Buccos games back in 2020, which means we’ll probably see Pérez pop in at least once during every series or so.

Don’t forget about...

Andrew Susac

Should injuries pile up on Stallings or Pérez, the team will likely call up on Andrew Susac, a big leaguer with stops in San Francisco, Milwaukee and Baltimore. He also played in the final game for the Buccos last season, drawing two walks in the season finale loss to the Indians. He’ll be at the alternate training site in Pittsburgh if needed.

Tony Wolters was also part of the team in Spring Training, but he opted out of his contract following the announcement that he had not made the Opening Day roster. There’s always a chance (a la Todd Frazier) that Wolters may return, but at this point it’s likely Stallings & Pérez with Susac in the back pocket.

Update, 9:18 a.m. EST: According to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, Tony Wolters appears to be staying in the NL Central and will likely join the Cubs.