Cardinals' Jordan Walker's scuffles are par for the course in baseball

St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Jordan Walker's struggles are completely normal for someone his age, and many current stars began their careers in a similar fashion.
Philadelphia Phillies v St. Louis Cardinals
Philadelphia Phillies v St. Louis Cardinals / Jeff Le/GettyImages

The seed of worry has been planted in the minds of St. Louis Cardinals fans over the early-season struggles of former top prospect Jordan Walker, whose .155 batting average through 20 games in 2024 has earned him a ticket to Triple-A Memphis. The excitement for Walker's debut after a torrid Spring Training in 2023 was nearly unparalleled in modern Cardinals history, but his slow start this year has led some hasty fans to blame the Cardinals for failing to develop the young slugger.

Walker still has a good chance to develop into a star, and his shaky beginning to 2024 is far from unusual for young players. Many hitters who are Walker's age (21) are still batting against college-level or minor-league pitchers instead of playing at the highest level, and Cardinals fans should feel reassured when they look at other players who began their careers at Walker's age and have blossomed into stars.

CJ Abrams of the Washington Nationals is hitting .305 with a 1.013 OPS so far this season. In his first year, at age 21, Abrams hit only .246 and had an OPS+ of 75, which is 25 points below league average. Xander Bogaerts' first full season in Boston, also at age 21, had him hit .240 with an OPS+ of 84. The shortstop has since gone on to win five Silver Sluggers and earn four All-Star nods. Finally, longtime Cleveland Guardians star Jose Ramirez hit only .239 with a total of eight home runs in his first 635 plate appearances in the major leagues from age 20 through 22. Since then? Five All-Star appearances and four Silver Sluggers, not to mention six top-10 MVP votes.

This should illustrate the point that Walker is far too young to pass judgment on and that there is every reason to believe that he can get up to speed with big-league pitching. He has already massively improved his defense in right field, so he clearly has the work ethic to make the necessary adjustments at the plate.

Cardinals fans shouldn't expect every hyped prospect to turn into Albert Pujols right out of the gate. These growing pains are normal and expected of a player Walker's age, and one only needs to look at the examples above to realize that the sky is not falling on the Cardinals' future.