Last season, Sandy Alcantara became the first Miami Marlins pitcher to win the CY Young Award. Posting a 14-9 record, Alcantara recorded a 2.28 ERA with 207 strikeouts in 228.2 innings pitched.
And behind the plate during every start was catcher Jacob Stallings. Entering his eighth year in the league, Stallings caught all 32 games for the hard-throwing right-hander. As a gift, Alcantara gave Stallings a Cartier watch at the end of the season.
“It was fun,” Stallings said. “It was quite a ride that he took us all on. He had quite a few special performances, so it’s fun to be a part of and it was a special year for him.”
Marlins Strong Arsenal
Although Alcantara headlines Miami’s pitching rotation, Trevor Rogers, Jesús Luzardo, Edward Cabrera and Johnny Cueto are other Marlins pitchers that could help the team have one of the best arsenals in the league.
Stallings will be behind all of it.
“It’s fun catching those guys because it’s electric arms,” he said. “Zeus [Luzardo] took a big step forward, Cabrera was really good when he was healthy and now we have Johnny. It’s fun having a different mix of guys, but it’s a special group for sure.”
Not only does Stallings have the responsibility of catching an advanced rotation, but Spring Training is a time when pitchers compete for a spot on the Opening Day roster. He said it’s important to communicate with every pitcher because each one is different.
“It can be challenging when you have a bunch of young guys and maybe you don’t know them as well,” he said. “Depending on their situation, if they’re competing for a spot or if they’re getting ready for the season, you just try to calm them down and get them in the zone.”
In 2021, the Marlins acquired Stallings from the Pittsburgh Pirates in a three-team trade. He was a Gold Glover in 2021 and was coming off of one of his best offensive seasons that year, hitting eight home runs with 53 RBIs.
The former Pirate debuted with Pittsburgh in 2016, though he only played five games. He was drafted by the Pirates in 2012 in the seventh round and he played his college ball at the University of North Carolina where he spent four seasons playing for the Tar Heels.
Originally from Brentwood, Tennessee, Stallings said he was a St. Louis Cardinals fan growing up, and his favorite player was Mike Matheny. He said he admired how Matheny was a defensive first catcher, and that’s how he views himself in today’s game.
Additionally, Stallings also looks up to current catchers in the league, always looking to improve his game. He said he watches J.T. Realmuto of the Philadelphia Phillies and takes aspects of his game to implement in his own way.
“When I was trying to really learn how to frame back in 2019, I would watch guys around the league and try to emulate them,” he said. “I try to steal tidbits from their game and steal from the best guys around the league.”
Ready for the Season
The catcher is excited about the upcoming season. With the acquisitions of Cueto and 2022 AL Batting Champion, Luis Arráez, new manager Skip Schumaker hopes the Marlins will be able to compete in a difficult NL East division.
On the mound, Stallings knows Alcantara can repeat the type of season he had last year.
“He has three or four pitches that can be his best pitch on any given night,” he said. “It’s kind of what makes Sandy so unique. Consistently, his changeup and sinker are probably his best pitches. But you know, he’s just one of those special guys.”
In his first season with Miami, Stallings hit four home runs with 39 RBIs and batted .223. Although it was a decline from the 2021 season, Stallings said he felt he had a solid second half of the 2022 season and he looks to build off of that.
“I’m trying to get back to the type of defensive production I was having in Pittsburgh,” he said. “Some small adjustments with the throwing and framing. Small adjustments but just trying to get better in all facets.”