Each day leading up to Opening Day, our Redbird Rants team will be counting down the 20 most important St. Louis Cardinals for the 2023 season. Here are the players we have covered thus far.
At #15 on our list is the hottest prospect in baseball, Jordan Walker. While he's cooled off after an insanely hot start to Spring Training, following the Cardinals' March 14 game, Walker is hitting .405 with three home runs, seven RBI, seven runs, and a 1.135 OPS in 37 at-bats.
Stepping back a bit, Walker was selected in the first round (21st overall) by St. Louis in the five-round 2020 amateur draft out of Decatur, GA. Since there was no minor league season that year, his professional debut had to wait until 2021. It sure was worth the wait.
In his first 27 games at Low-A Palm Beach, Walker hit a stunning .374/.475/.687 in 122 plate appearances with six homers and nearly as many walks (18) as strikeouts (21). Promoted to High-A Peoria, he slowed down somewhat but still batted .292/.344/.487 with eight long balls and a poor BB:K ratio of 15:66 over 244 PA. For the full season, he also chipped in 14 steals, being caught just twice.
Bumped up to Double-A in 2021 at the tender age of 20, Walker got right back to clobbering the ball, hitting .306/.388/.510 in 536 PA with 19 home runs, 100 runs scored, 68 RBI, and 22 steals in 27 attempts. His 1:2 BB:K ratio was more manageable (58:116 overall).
The Cardinals sent Walker to the Arizona Fall League, where he not only kept thumping the ball - posting a .286/.367/.558 line with five homers in 90 PA - but he also continued the transition to the outfield he started during the '22 regular season.
With Nolan Arenado entrenched at third base in St. Louis, Walker's transition to the outfield grass is his best opportunity to reach the major leagues, aside from the designated hitter spot, which is rarely reserved for a single player these days. How quickly Walker gets to The Show is still to be determined, but he's expected to hit the ground running.