ST. LOUIS – A prized prospect looks poised for his St. Louis Cardinals debut this season, and his arrival is one much of the baseball world will follow closely.
Jordan Walker enters the 2023 season not only as the top-ranked Cardinals prospect for the second consecutive year, but nearly the top-ranked prospect in all of Major League Baseball.
MLB Pipeline released its latest edition of the Top 100 prospect rankings Thursday, naming Walker the league’s fourth-best prospect. Walker scored the best MLB Pipeline ranking for a Cardinals prospect since Oscar Taveras placed third overall in 2014.
The 2020 first-round pick is coming off an impressive 2022 campaign for the Double-A Springfield Cardinals. He enjoyed a .306 batting average with 68 RBI and 100 runs scored last season, while finishing just one home run shy of a rare minor-league 20/20 campaign. His early returns are indeed promising from an offensive standpoint.
Walker, still only 20 years old, took his talents to the Arizona Fall League just a few months ago and produced strong numbers again. He delivered a .286/.367/.558 slash line with 5 home runs and 16 RBI over 21 games. More notably, Walker saw a bulk of action in the outfield as he prepares to transition from third base, a position he has covered regularly for most of his life in baseball.
The Georgia native recently visited St. Louis for Winter Warm-Up and enjoyed every minute of it.
“I got a chance to get a real long look at the field [of Busch Stadium], and it really is giving me the push. I’m ready,” said Walker. “I’m ready to get going. I’m ready to try to make the team. So just being here is giving me a little extra drive to try to make the team and be ready to go to St. Louis.”
Only Baltimore’s Gunnar Henderson, Arizona’s Corbin Carroll and New York Mets’ Francisco Alavarez finished higher than walker in the latest MLB Pipeline rankings.
Five fun questions for Jordan Walker
Walker spoke for nearly 15 minutes during his Winter Warm-Up session with media members on Jan. 16. These were among the best answers and replies.
Question 1: “What’s it like in an offseason where you are going into camp to possibly be a major leaguer? What’s the pressure like, the expectations, the workload coming off Arizona [Fall League]?”
JW: “Because we finished Arizona so late, it really hasn’t been revamping. It’s kind of just been a little break and then getting right back in to it. But it’s been good. I talked to [fellow Cardinals prospect Mike] Antico about it. We called each other and talked about when we were going down and if we were going down early. We don’t really talk about the pressure. We don’t really focus on that, we just pretty much focus on having fun down there. I am really excited about it, to get down there and start working. So it’s more something I am looking forward to enjoy, rather than put a lot of pressure on it.”
Question 2: “When you are look at 2023, there’s obviously a lot of expectations that just come with being the number one [Cardinals] prospect, but there is a significant chance you could make this Opening Day roster. How do you handle the expectations, both internally and externally?”
JW: “Honestly, I don’t worry about it too much. I’m a little of a ‘whatever happens, happens’ guy. It’s really what I can control, I just try to keep calm, try to play my game and then if things work out, it works out. … You just gotta keep on pushing, so it’s really not too much thinking about it. It’s more, I’m not too much of a guy that’ll worry about something like that.”
Question 3: “People see the size [6-foot-5, 220 lbs] and think ‘Home Run Hitter,’ but there was only one month last year when you didn’t hit .300. How much do you pride yourself on being a complete hitter and not just a guy who is all or nothing for home runs?”
JW: “I want to be a complete player, so obviously it means a lot to me to not just be a power hitter. I want to be a hitter in general. When things get tough, [I want] to be able to put the ball in play and get on base. So it does mean a lot to me to be a hitter and not just be a power hitter, and I work a lot on my contact as well. I like to put the machine on a fast as it can possibly go to tune up a little bit and try to put the bat on the ball and poke it somewhere. Honestly, sometimes [I like to] put the machine at a fastball down the middle, so I can crush it! But I also work on, sometimes when I am feeling a little beat at the plate, just still being able to get a hit out of it. So [hitting is] very important to me.”
Question 4: “At what point in your progression did you look at the depth chart, having a guy like Arenado and think that [playing outfield] might be a future for you? And how did that develop over the last year?”
JW: “It was always in the back of my head, honestly, with a really good, really talented guy like [Arenado]. Honestly, it can’t not be in the back of your head. But it really wasn’t something I was focusing on. I was just trying to make the best out of the situation I was in, playing my hardest, working my hardest. When the switch came, it felt pretty good to see there’s a spot [the Cardinals] could want me at. And definitely it has been all smiles, it really hasn’t been too much worry about it.”
Question 5 (asked by Joey Schneider): “What excites you about the Cardinals offense, having guys like Arenado, Goldschmidt and a lot of depth from top to bottom?”
JW: “It feels really good. Also the addition of Willson Contreras, I’ve seen the stuff that he did. He’s really, really good. Obviously Goldschmidt and Arenado, they are really, really talented players. I know growing up watching them, and actually a lot of my coaching and fielding at third base in high school was in comparison to Arenado. They were like, pretty much like ‘Why can’t you do that?’ and I’m like, ‘Coach, I’m like 15 years old!’ Having them in the lineup is going to be a real joy, and I’m really excited to see what St. Louis can do this year.”
Other ranked Cardinals
Four other Cardinals prospects, including several of Walker’s teammates from recent minor league campaigns, joined him in MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 rankings. This includes…
- Masyn Winn – SS (50th overall)
- Tink Hence – SP (77th overall)
- Gordon Graceffo – SP (79th overall)
- Alec Burleson – OF (91st overall)
For the complete Top 100 MLB Pipeline rankings, click here.