Although St. Louis Cardinals rookie Jordan Walker has had an immensely successful start to the season, there are a few warning signs under the surface.
The St. Louis Cardinals appear to have had a historic 2020 draft, and its crown jewel looks to be rookie outfielder Jordan Walker, who just ended a 12-game hitting streak to begin his hopefully illustrious career. Despite his scintillating introduction to the major leagues, Walker still has some improvements he needs to make so he can remain consistently elite.
The first and probably most obvious flaw in Walker's game is his defense. A third baseman during most of his time in the minor leagues, Walker is still adjusting to the outfield. He possesses a railgun of an arm, but his routes and ability to take caroms off the wall leave something to be desired, and he is currently rated as two outs below average in right field. Given Walker's youth and inexperience at the position, there is little reason to panic, and he should be able to make the adjustments needed to become at least an average outfielder.
On the hitting side, the Cardinals have been an extremely aggressive team this year, and Walker is no exception to that. He's swinging often, and his whiff percentage is quite high at 27.8%. His chase rate is also elevated, at 33.7%.
While Walker has been able to make contact and do damage on fastballs inside, he has chased them above the zone and has also swung and missed at half of the changeups he's seen so far. His low strikeout rate of 22% looks poised to increase given how often he whiffs on swings and how few walks he draws, ambling to first base only once this year.
Finally, Walker has been hitting the ball on the ground a lot. His ground ball percentage is a staggering 55.6%. This isn't the death knell it used to be given the new rules limiting the defensive shift, but he is minimizing his opportunity to display his ridiculous skills when he does lift the ball.
Walker's weighted on-base average on fly balls is an outstanding .674, but his wOBA as a whole is much lower, at .371. Hard-hit fly balls and line drives are still the best recipes for success, and to Walker's credit, he didn't have this issue in the minor leagues, so there is good reason to believe he will lift the ball with more authority soon.
Walker is only 50 plate appearances into his career, so the sample size is minuscule. He has the skills to be a star in this league for a long time, but teams will notice the small holes in his game and do their best to exploit his weaknesses. Walker should be able to adapt just fine.