Many disagreed with the St. Louis Cardinals' decision to demote Jordan Walker after he began to cool off a bit and was producing an MLB-high 60% ground ball rate. Since his return though, Walker has looked like the future superstar we all hoped he would be.
This comes at the same time that Cincinnati Reds' top prospect Elly De La Cruz made his Major League debut, basically having the entire league drool over everything he has done since then. But if you actually compare the two players at the plate, Walker has been better than De La Cruz, and it's not even close
Jordan Walker is hitting like an All-Star since his return to St. Louis
Walker made his return to MLB action on June 2nd, and De La Cruz made his debut on June 6th. Here are their numbers since then.
Jordan Walker - .326/.396/.512, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 8.3 BB%, 12.5 K%, 153 wRC+
Elly De La Cruz - .235/.350/.412, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 15 BB%, 37.5 K%, 104 wRC+
I'm by no means saying people should not be excited about De La Cruz, but it's clear that Walker is quietly flying under the national radar, probably due to the trainwreck the rest of the team has been.
Check out these tweets from @NerdsOnTheBat, who captured some important numbers on Walker.
That 153 wRC+ means Walker is producing about 53% above league average at the plate right now. Not only are his traditional numbers electric, but his expected numbers show that he's actually playing even better than the numbers show.
Now, one thing that has to be pointed out is that Walker's ground ball percentage is sitting at 59.5% right now, which is still not ideal for a guy who we all want to see be a middle-of-the-order force long-term. He's hitting like one right now, and that is real, but he will still need to continue to hit more line drives and fly balls in order to keep up with these numbers long-term. For now though, let Walker be comfortable at the plate and figure it out while he goes.
In all honesty, the Cardinals should be far more concerned with his development in the outfield right now than his swing. He's only 21 and is mashing the ball right now, so he'll figure out those minor tweaks over time. His defense will come around over time as well, but that is the thing that's actually hurting the team right now.
In just 274.1 innings in the outfield this year, Walker has a -10 DRS, which puts him at 4th worst in baseball among all position players. Here's where it gets even worse - he hasn't even played enough innings to qualify for the list yet. The bottom 5 defensive players in baseball in DRS have all played over 437 innings in the field. There's a chance that by the time Walker qualifies for this list, he'll rank last in DRS by a wide margin.
I'm someone who believes that not only will he get better in the field eventually, but that he has the potential to be a very good defender one day. Walker just started playing outfield for the first time after the 2022 Trade Deadline, so it hasn't even been a full year learning this new position yet. Yes, there are some players that comes more naturally too (see Tommy Edman in center field), but not all players have that "feel" so quickly.
I've seen people suggest he is a first baseman long-term, and while that could end up happening, you have to understand how athletically gifted he is. Walker ranks in the 82nd percentile in sprint speed and 98th percentile in arm strength. His issues aren't related to his abilities, it's related to his experience, evidenced by him ranking in the 10th percentile in his outfield jump so far this year.
Walker is a big time talent and his production is matching it. Get excited, Cardinals fans, as Walker is showing why he is the number one prospect in all of baseball right now.