The St. Louis Cardinals and their fans had sky-high expectations for rookie Jordan Walker this season. He made the Opening Day Roster as just age 20, and since his brief demotion to Triple-A Memphis, he's hitting like one of the best players in baseball.
Since his return to St. Louis, Walker is tied with Nolan Arenado for the 6th-highest wRC+ in the National League entering Tuesday's action. He's extended hit streak now to 13 games, looking so comfortable at the plate for the Cardinals.
In a recent story ranking the rookies that MLB.com writers would want to build around, Walker was selected fourth, and drew a comparison to Toronto Blue Jays' Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in the process, specifically due to the criticisms both received for their ground ball rate and their defense. 101 ESPN's Brandon Kiley took a deeper look at the comparison though, and it's a really good one.
Jordan Walker looks like a better version of Blue Jays' star Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
On the surface, you look at the two of them and they look like they'd be a lot different. Guerrero Jr. is four inches shorter than Walker but the same weight, and doesn't boast nearly the speed that Walker does. We also know Guerrero Jr. as the guy who slugged 48 home runs in 2021, something that Walker has been criticized for not doing enough to this point. But look at just how similar the two are when you compare their underlying numbers.
At the plate, Walker already looks like a better hitter than Guerrero Jr. was in his second big league season. Guerrero's third season was the year he broke out and finished 2nd in MVP voting behind Shohei Ohtani. In the seasons that Kiley is comparing here, Guerrero Jr. slashed .262./.329/.462 in the 60 games he played in the shortened 2020 season. Walker has played in 36 games so far and is slashing .302/.366/.488.
What excites me even more about Walker is the level of athleticism he brings that Guerrero Jr. does not have. In 2020, Guerrero ranked just in the 17th percentile in sprint speed and has fluctuated between that number and the 45th percentile in his career. Walker, on the other hand, ranks in the 79th percentile in sprint speed. Guerrero has also worked hard to become a Gold Glove winner at first base, and Walker has the tools to become a good defender in the outfield or corner infield as well.
Walker is already outproducing Guerrero Jr. by a wide margin at his age, and has the tools to do even more due to his speed.
While other rookies seem to be getting most of the buzz right now, Jordan Walker is primed to become a superstar in today's game, and the league will have to take notice soon.