Checking in on Jordan Walker's performance in Memphis

Jordan Walker was demoted to AAA Memphis on April 24th. How has he fared in a month's time?
St. Louis Cardinals v Oakland Athletics
St. Louis Cardinals v Oakland Athletics / Thearon W. Henderson/GettyImages
facebooktwitterreddit

On April 24th, the St. Louis Cardinals made the decision to demote former top prospect Jordan Walker to the Memphis Redbirds. According to John Denton, the goal for Walker was to lift the ball in the air more often. Prior to his demotion, he was hitting line drives less than 5% of the time, and he was hitting the ball hard but directly into the ground--he had a 50% groundball rate at the time.

In Memphis, Walker didn't have the pressure that comes with playing at the highest level of baseball. Jordan wouldn't have to worry about bringing the team down and being a cause for the cold start. Rather, he could work on specific aspects of his game such as launch angle and fixing his swing regardless of the numbers on the scoreboard.

Walker has played in 22 games since his demotion. In 96 plate appearances, Walker is slashing .273/.323/.364 with a .312 wOBA. He is walking 7.3% of the time, and he's striking out at a respectable 15.6% rate. He also has 7 extra-base hits; however, none of those hits has been a home run (6 doubles and 1 triple). Each of his triple-slash figures is better than those from his limited time in the majors to start the season.

The real reason Walker was sent down was to correct his line drive issues. You'll see line drive, groundball, and flyball figures in both AAA and MLB below.

Level

LD%

GB%

FB%

AAA

19.2%

42.5%

38.4%

MLB

4.8%

50%

45.2%

You'll notice he's spreading his batted balls around a little more than normal. He has boosted his line drive percentage while cutting slightly into both his groundball and flyball rates. Despite an improved line drive rate, Jordan Walker's ISO, a statistic that measures a player's raw power, has dropped from .103 with St. Louis to .091 with Memphis.

What will it take for Jordan Walker to return to St. Louis?

Oli Marmol gave us an answer to that question when the 21-year-old was initially sent down. Marmol stated that, "He’s got to be feeling good about where he’s at swing-wise and pitch-selection-wise in order to get back up here to help us."

Walker is striking out significantly less than he was in the majors (26.9% in MLB, 15.6% in AAA), so he's choosing his pitches much more accurately.

Cardinals' President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak spoke with Martin Kilcoyne recently about Walker's improvements and what's needed out of him to return to the big league club.

"I think right now we're getting production out of our outfield. I think for him it's about continuing to getting his work in everyday, not having to worry about if he's going to be in the lineup or not. Just let him play."

John Mozeliak

Walker is playing better in Memphis than he was in St. Louis, but the outfield situation in St. Louis is a bit more crowded now than it was before. Michael Siani has proven himself to be a superb defender with some offensive pop. Brendan Donovan has become an everyday left fielder quickly. Lars Nootbaar is playing fine in right field. Dylan Carlson, while he's off to a rough start so far, returns to the 4th outfielder spot.

It doesn't seem like the front office has seen enough out of the former top prospect to recall him back to St. Louis. Hopefully, he's able to hit for more power and draw more walks soon to help contribute to the big league club. Jordan Walker's bobblehead night is coming up on June 6th, so hopefully he's up by then!

manual