Just a year ago this time, Jordan Walker was the top prospect in the Cardinals organization and was viewed as one of the top five prospects in all of baseball. He took Spring Training by storm and earned a spot on the Opening Day roster. While the first couple of months weren't as successful as he had hoped they would be, he truly took off upon his promotion back to St. Louis in June, and Walker is ready to take a leap forward in 2024.
I recently ranked Walker as the most valuable young position player in the Cardinals organization, which comes as no surprise to anyone. At just 21 years old, Walker has already proven he has what it takes to be an impact bat in this league, and the adjustments he made throughout the year to drive the ball more often will only help him to be more successful in 2024 and beyond. Walker talked about how he is continued to focus on lifting the ball this offseason, and has put on even more muscle to help unlock that power.
Over the course of the season, Walker was able to lower his league-leading ground ball rate of 60.4% from the month of April to just 39.7% in his final 56 games of the year. Not so coincidentally, he was 26% above league average during that stretch and was slugging the ball like we all knew he could. That's why projection systems like ZiPS see Walker hitting close to 30 home runs this year, and if he hits his top end projections, could be close to a top-15 hitter in all of baseball.
Again, Walker won't be 22 until May, so the production we have already seen from him so far is astonishing for how young he is. But it's also why so many see much more to come from him at the plate. If he puts it all together, he's a guy that can be a true middle of the order bat as soon as this coming season, and all signs continue to point in that direction.
The part of his game where people have the most question marks is defensively, but that's something he's been even harder at work on this offseason. Oli Marmol told us that he's has José Oquendo working with Walker this offseason in Jupiter, putting him to work in the field and preparing him to make major strides this coming season.
Things were really bad for the first half of the 2023 season for Walker in the outfield, but he was making incremental improvements in the second half, and one could argue he has at least not the extreme liablity he was to begin the year. Still, he left much to be desired out there, and Walker has welcomed the challenge of learning from one of the greats this offseason.
As always, Walker continues to be a guy who's easy to talk to, kind and courteous toward the media and is just a guy who is hard not to like. He has that kind of fun energy that is wanted in a clubhouse, but when it's time to turn it on, Walker has that killer instinct that's needed to be great. Multiple times Walker referenced his openness to learning from guys like Oquendo and Brendan Donovan, and is hoping his hard work this offseason leads to an excellent sophomore campaign in 2024.