Jacob Stallings Wins First Gold Glove

The Pittsburgh Pirates catcher became UNC's second Gold Glover

From being designated for assignment on July 5, 2016, to being optioned to the Minor Leagues nine times in his career, former North Carolina standout Jacob Stallings’ journey to becoming the Pittsburgh Pirates’ starting catcher was far from easy.

But coming off his first season of more than 61 games behind the plate, Stallings was rewarded for his perseverance Sunday, when he was announced as the winner of the Rawlings Gold Glove Award for the best catcher in the National League.

“To be honest, it’s kind of been the highest individual achievement that I ever felt like I could probably win," Stallings told Jake Crouse of MLB.com. "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.’"

In beating out defensive stalwarts Yadier Molina of the St. Louis Cardinals and J.T. Realmuto of the Philadelphia Phillies, Stallings became just the second Tar Heel to win a Gold Glove, joining Kyle Seager – the 2014 American League winner at third base. Stallings and Seager played one season together in 2009, helping UNC to a fourth straight College World Series as a freshman and junior, respectively.

Stallings is the first Pirates catcher to win a Gold Glove since Mike LaValliere in 1987 and just the third overall; Tony Pena won three straight from 1983-85.

A Gold Glove finalist in 2020, Stallings was largely expected to win the award Sunday after posting elite metrics over 104 games (103 starts) behind the dish this season. His 21 defensive runs saved were tied with Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa as the most recorded by any player at any position and were nine more than the second-best catcher, according to FanGraphs. Stallings also turned in an 8.8 FRM (FanGraphs’ calculation of catcher framing value), which tied for the best mark in the National League with Omar Narvaez of the Milwaukee Brewers.

Stallings finished the season with just five errors in 922 total chances at catcher, good for a .995 fielding percentage. He was the only catcher in the Majors who wasn’t charged with a passed ball (min. 500 innings).

Major League managers and coaches, voting only within their leagues and unable to vote for players on their own teams, account for 75% of the selection process for the Gold Glove Awards. The other 25% derives from the Society for American Baseball Research’s defensive index. Stallings finished second among all National League fielders with an SDI of 9.2.