The Cardinals are not giving up on Jordan Walker as an outfielder, nor should they

Various Cardinals' fans continue to suggest that Jordan Walker should shift to first base, which is not happening.
Minnesota Twins v St. Louis Cardinals
Minnesota Twins v St. Louis Cardinals / Joe Puetz/GettyImages
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It really doesn't take long for the prospect luster to wear off on a player and for Cardinals fans to move from patience to panic over young players trying to find their way in St. Louis. Jordan Walker is no exception to this.

If you hop on Twitter, Facebook, or the comments section on most Cardinals' message boards, you're bound to find a few comments (or more) that suggest that Walker should be shifting to first base as soon as possible for the Cardinals. I think it would be a massive mistake for the Cardinals to give up on Walker as an outfielder in the foreseeable future, and luckily, I don't see them doing that anyways.

Let's start with the bad. Yes, Walker has been an awful defender in the outfield this year. There's no way around that. Walker is sitting at a -15 DRS on the season, third-worst among all outfielders. He has been really bad. It's okay to admit that about a highly touted prospect. No one needs to try and protect Walker and act like he gets a "pass" for his defensive performance this year.

And yet, he should continue to get reps out there. Every single game he plays. And when he's not playing? Well, it sounds like the Cardinals use those off days to give him even more training in the outfield.

I love this. Let Walker play almost every day, and then leverage those "off days" as intensive outfield training with one of the best in the business, Willie McGee. Walker has all of the tools to be, at the very least, an average defender in right field. It may just take some time for him to get there.

The Cardinals believe this too, or else they wouldn't keep trouting him out there as much as they have. Walker ranks in the 81st percentile in sprint speed this year and in the 96th percentile when it comes to arm strength according to Baseball Savant. Those two tools, his athletic range and his cannon of an arm, will go a long way toward helping him develop defensively. His biggest issue thus far has been his feel for playing the position, which can be seen by his 9th percentile ranking in outfield jump this season.

Walker has only been playing the outfield for a little over a year now professionally. Some players (like Tommy Edman and Brendan Donovan), can adjust to playing different positions on a daily basis and be pretty good at all of them. But even a guy like Edman has shown cracks at times when he's been yanked around the field to different positions. Some players take much longer to find their grooves at a position, and Walker just appears to be one of those guys.

But no one has ever questioned Walker's work ethic. He's a guy that behind the scenes is working harder than anyone else to get better and better as a player. Walker is well aware of his mistakes defensively, and no one wants to prove he is a better defender than that than Walker himself.

It's easy to forget that Walker is still just 21 years old. He's one of the youngest players in the Major Leagues right now. It's rare to see players as young as Walker make their way into the everyday lineup of a big league club that had playoff aspirations this year, let alone do that while playing a completely new position. Walker has plenty of time to improve as a defender. If we get to May or June of 2024 and he still has not shown enough progress, then maybe we can revisit this conversation.

There are two other things that need to be remembered when suggesting Walker should just "become a first baseman". First, where on earth did it become a given that Walker could just step in and be a good first baseman? He hasn't played a single inning of first base in his professional career. First base is not an easy position. Have you seen how long it's taken Walker to adjust to the outfield? What makes you think that just transitioning him over to first base will solve all of his issues?

Doing so also sinks some of the potential Walker has as a player. How so you may ask? First of all, first base is not a premium defensive position. It is much more valuable to have a bat like Walker's playing right field for your club than first base. When a player becomes a full-time first baseman, their bat has to play to an even higher level to be looked at as one of the best hitters in the game. Walker's bat has a high ceiling, but it loses value when you put him at a position like first base.

Walker would also block other players in the Cardinals organization who may actually need to play first base. In the long-term, Alec Burleson may end up being a great fit there, but cannot do so if Walker takes over the position. Walker is far too gifted of an athlete to give up on so quickly as an outfielder.

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Give the guy an offseason to work his tail off at the position. Let him go into 2024 ready to make strides defensively. If he can continue to take steps forward as a defender, St. Louis will be just fine. If not, then sure, they may need to reconsider his future as a DH or at another position. But for now, it would be foolish to consider playing Walker anywhere besides the corner outfield.