Why is Jordan Walker important for St. Louis in 2023?
Managing expectations for Walker was going to be challenging after his strong minor league performances and his youthfulness, and his smashing debut this spring in Jupiter, FL, has only enflamed the heat surrounding the youngster.
The Cardinals outfield has been a work in progress for several seasons in a row. It briefly looked like things would settle down with Tyler O'Neill in left, Harrison Bader in center, and Dylan Carlson in right. However, Bader's trade to the New York Yankees at last year's trade deadline shook things up, with Carlson moving to center and Lars Nootbaar getting a chance to shine, and Corey Dickerson around for some veteran depth.
With Dickerson off to Washington as a free agent, the kids are gonna play in the outfield. Juan Yepez and Alec Burleson are looking for playing time, too, but Walker has put himself firmly in the mix for an Opening Day roster assignment.
While everyone expects great things from Walker, many young players struggle in their first taste of the big leagues. Turning 21 on May 22, he certainly has time to develop his skills, and he still might begin the year in Triple-A.
The Cardinals shouldn't need Walker to be great to do well this year, which is why he's only No. 15 on this list. If the rest of the young outfield meets reasonable expectations, the veterans like Arenado, Paul Goldschmidt, and Willson Contreras have typical strong seasons, and the middle infield works out well with Tommy Edman at shortstop and a combination of Brendan Donovan and Nolan Gorman at second base - with everyone getting some time at DH - the offense should be one of the league's best.
St. Louis fans are eager to see Walker in Busch Stadium, crushing baseballs with the bat and running them down with his 6' 5" frame. He has the ability to be a truly special player, the talent to be the next Cardinals star. Whether it's on Opening Day, mid-April, June, or later, Walker is coming fast. And when he does get to St. Louis, he's likely to be there to stay for a long time.