John Mozeliak is encouraged, yet patient when it comes to Jordan Walker
In a sit down interview with Frank Cusumano, St. Louis Cardinals' President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak addressed a number of topics ranging from Willson Contreras, Jack Flaherty, Nolan Arenado, among others. One of the topics that Mozeliak commented on was the status of Jordan Walker, and whether or not we should expect to see him starting for the Cardinals on Opening Day.
When asked if it would surprised him at all if Walker was the starting right fielder on Opening Day, Mozeliak had the following to say.
""I think I'd be somewhat surprised (if Walker broke with the club out of spring training)... But I guess this is gonna be for the record, so I'll say, I don't know. I wouldn't be shocked. He's an amazing talent. He's having a great offseason from a physical standpoint. Reports coming in right now are extremely encouraging. I think it's really going to be the ability to adapt to the speed of the game at the major league level...he just went through a position change, which he adapted to really well...so I think the expectations of him coming into camp are exciting. It's also a WBC season, so some of these young guys are going to get more of a look.""- John Mozeliak
If you watch the clip from Mozeliak (starts around the 8:30 mark, linked here), you can hear excitement that he has about Walker, and that he is genuinely interested, like we are, to see how Walker performs this spring and if he can make the roster. His comments really do indicate an openness to promoting Walker if he is ready, but also being patient enough to make the hard choice of waiting if need be,
There are arguments to be made on both ends of the spectrum. If Walker were to make the Opening Day roster, the Cardinals put themselves in a position to acquire extra draft picks in future seasons if Walker is able to win Rookie of the Year or finish top 3 in MVP voting in any of his pre-arbitration years. If the 20-year old is truly ready to play this spring, this is a huge incentive for the Cardinals to promote him.
But with Walker being the best position player prospect St. Louis has had since Albert Pujols and Oscar Taveras, it would be wise for the club to take their time with him, especially if he struggles a bit in Spring Training. It would be one thing if the Cardinals desperately needed him in the outfield, but with so many different options on the roster entering 2023, they do not need to rush Walker if he is not ready.
All eyes will be on the young outfielder once Spring Training begins. With multiple Cardinals participating in the World Baseball Classic, including Nolan Arenado, Paul Goldschmidt, and Lars Nootbaar, there will be plenty of playing time for Walker to have. He is coming off a Double-A season where he batted .306/.388/.510 with 19 HR and 68 RBI, with a sneaky 22 SB as well. During the Arizona Fall League, his OPS jumped up to .925 and he continued to impress with his defense transition to the outfield.
If Walker produces this Spring, it will be very difficult for the Cardinals to not have him starting Opening Day this year. Even if he does not make the Opening Day roster, fans can expect to see Walker being a major contributor for the Cardinals at some point during the 2023 season.