2. Alec Burleson
Even though he does not have much more to prove at the AAA level, Alec Burleson may be forced to start the year in the minor leagues because of the preseason play of Walker.
Burleson is one of the Cardinals' top-hitting prospects and he was able to see his first big-league action last year. He appeared in 16 games for St. Louis and knocked one home run with three RBIs, and finished the year hitting .188.
His struggles at the MLB level could be attributed to a lack of legitimate playing time as he was stuck behind new fan-favorite Lars Nootbaar in the outfield, and the team already had Nolan Gorman and Brendan Donovan to fill a left-handed hitting bench or designated hitter role.
All of these reasons are why Burleson is in danger of making the opening-day roster. Lefties Donovan and Gorman are having a breakout spring training, and the three starting outfielders already appear to be set, even without Walker.
It will not be good for the 24-year-old's development if he is kept on the bench in St. Louis instead of getting regular playing time at AAA. But make no mistake, this is a player who can seriously hit the ball.
He has had two seasons in the minor leagues where he has hit more than 20 home runs. Also, in 2022, he finished the AAA season with a batting average of .331 in 470 at-bats. He also notched 20 home runs and 87 RBIs which earned him the call-up to St. Louis.
Burleson still has a big part to play on this team, and although it may take an injury or lack of contribution from Nootbaar, Dylan Carlson, or Tyler O'Neill, the lefty slugger can contribute in a big way next season.