Yet another national voice is beating the Jordan Walker drum
It seems like every other day now that someone is raving about St. Louis Cardinals top prospect Jordan Walker, and Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com is the latest to stake his flag not only in Walker being the 2023 National League Rookie of the Year, but comparing him to this years American League Rookie of the Year: Julio Rodriguez.
While making his early predictions for the 2023 award winners on MLB Network, Castrovince had this to say about Walker when asked who his National League Rookie of the Year prediction was.
"I’m going with Jordan Walker of the Cardinals. He could be 2023’s answer to Julio Rodriguez, playing the season at age-21, you know…I think he is really going to press the issue in Spring Training because his first two seasons in pro-ball, I mean he’s had a seamless adjustment to pro-ball. You see there, his numbers from 2022, really strong at the Double-A level and really performed well in the Arizona Fall League as well."
Castrovince joins the chorus of voices who are anticipating big things from the 20-year old. Former GM Jim Bowden has him ranked as his top prospect in baseball and expects similar things from Walker in 2023. John Mozeliak on many occasions said he is the club’s best prospect since Albert Pujols and Oscar Taveras.
Some fans may reference disappointment they have had with Dylan Carlson or Nolan Gorman as reasons not to believe in the hype, but Walker is a far different prospect than what the Cardinals have had in recent years. He is a true superstar level talent, and yes, he could fail at the big league level, but all signs are pointing toward immediate success for Walker.
Guys like Gorman and Carlson have had too high of expectations placed on them, so expecting Walker to replicate Julio Rodriguez’s production may not be fair, but it is fair to believe he will be one of the top rookies in baseball and should be the early favorite for National League Rookie of the Year. Walker has the talent to have a special rookie year, and people around the league are taking notice of that.
The benefit that a guy like Walker has in his rookie year compared to most potential face of the franchise players is that he will not be relied upon as the star of the team. Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado just finished 1st and 3rd in MVP voting. Guys like Tommy Edman, Tyler O’Neill, Lars Nootbaar, and Dylan Carlson are multiple years into there young big league careers and are impact players. Brendan Donovan was 3rd in NL Rookie of the Year voting and guys like Gorman and Yepez should take steps forward in 2023. And hopefully the Cardinals are adding a few more impact bats this off-season.
Walker will have plenty of talent around to help him succeed. Walker has shown at every level so far that he has the talent and maturity to bear the weight of the expectations put upon him, with perhaps the Arizona Fall League being the final test of that. Playing against the game’s best prospects, Walker had a .925 OPS and was consistently making highlight reel plays at the plate.
Fangraphs currently has Walker projected to play 109 games in St. Louis next year while slashing .258/.318/.427 with 15 HR and 53 RBI. I expect Walker to be in the Opening Day lineup for the Cardinals and to surpass these numbers, beginning his exciting big league career with a bang.