The St. Louis Cardinals are on the final stretch of the off-season before Opening Day, and with this being a World Baseball Classic year, the club will be missing a lot of key players due to their participation.
As many as eight different Cardinals will be missing from the roster this Spring, meaning that many of the club's top prospects will be getting more playing time than they would have otherwise. The main beneficiary of this appears to be the Cardinals' top prospect, Jordan Walker. Walker, who will be competing for an outfield spot this spring, should see increased at-bats and time in the field with Nolan Arenado, Paul Goldschmidt, Lars Nootbaar, and possibly Tyler O'Neill being among the Cardinals missing from camp.
John Mozeliak himself indicated that Walker should get more of a look this spring, and seemed excited to see how he would respond to that opportunity. The Cardinals are in a position with the 20-year-old. If Walker blows them away during his opportunities, there'll be no reason not to have him on the roster for Opening Day. If Walker struggles or needs more seasoning, they have plenty of options to fill the outfield spots until Walker is ready for his debut.
One look at Walker shows you just why so many, in both the St. Louis organization and around baseball, are eager to see him in St. Louis. Walker is 6-5, 220lbs and has an elite mix of power and speed in his game. Even at his young age, Walker was able to post a .898 OPS in Double-A ball against more advanced and older pitching, and then take it a step further with a .925 OPS against the best prospects in baseball in the Arizona Fall League.
For as fun and exciting as many of the Cardinals young big leaguers are, none have the kind of ceiling that Walker boasts, and it's only a matter of time until he is an everyday player for St. Louis. The stars are aligning witht the abcense of so many regulars for Walker to take one of the outfield positions by the horn and never let go, but naturally, that also means more opportunties for other Cardinal outfielders.
Dylan Carlson will likely be an everyday outfielder for St. Louis this season, but coming off a down year, he'll be looking to produce at a high level to maintain his starting role. While O'Neill will likely be with Canada for the WBC, both he and Carlson are the two likeliest outfielders to see their playing time reduced by Walker as Nootbaar has risen as the most valuable of the trio. Walker could see himself at the DH spot to start the year, but that means he'll also be competing with Juan Yepez and Alec Burleson for those at-bats.