Scouting report: Cardinals’ Jordan Walker
MiLB.com's Scouting Report series spotlights players who are just starting their professional careers, focusing on what the experts are projecting for these young phenoms. Here's a look at third-ranked Cardinals prospect Jordan Walker. For more player journeys on The Road to The Show, click here. It wasn’t very long ago
MiLB.com's Scouting Report series spotlights players who are just starting their professional careers, focusing on what the experts are projecting for these young phenoms. Here's a look at third-ranked Cardinals prospect Jordan Walker. For more player journeys on The Road to The Show, click here.
It wasn’t very long ago that tracking exit velocities was an exotic practice, especially at the amateur level. Fans of that particular metric, however, were fortunate it entered the mainstream by the time Jordan Walker was ready for the Draft.
The third-ranked Cardinals prospect was already a towering presence as a high schooler in Stone Mountain, Georgia. At 6-foot-5 and 240-pounds, he regularly produced triple-digit speeds off the bat, making him one of the highest-ranked prospects in the country.
Walker was named 2019-20 Georgia Gatorade State Player of the Year in a pandemic-shortened 16-game season last year for Decatur High School. But he had already received national prominence at that point, which included Player of the Game honors at the 2019 MLB High School All-Star Game and an invitation to the MLB High School Home Run Derby during All-Star week at Progressive Field in Cleveland that summer.
It was the power that brought the most attention to Walker as a Draft prospect. After he was tabbed by St. Louis with the No. 21 overall pick last year, the third baseman had no problem identifying his loudest tool.
“My main strength is power,” Walker told MLB.com after the Draft. “I’m a power hitter. I can truly be a power hitter in MLB, if I progress like I want to progress.”
After he signed a $2.9 million deal to forgo his commitment to Duke, it really did seem right away like his game would work off his undeniable power.
You ask and you shall receive. https://t.co/Sb1Wkk5VOF pic.twitter.com/3TFqcmmuTw— Palm Beach Cardinals (@GoPBCardinals) May 5, 2021
On the first pitch he saw in his first professional game with Low-A Palm Beach in May, Walker jumped on a breaking pitch and cranked it out to center.
"He hung a curveball up there, and I was locked in on it," Walker told the Peoria Journal-Star in July. "I just let my swing do the work."
But since then, Walker has shown there’s more to his offensive profile than an ability to put the ball over the fence.
The 19-year-old has had fewer than 300 at-bats at the professional level, but he’s produced a .319/.391/.516 slash line with nine homers, 23 doubles and 34 RBIs across two levels. Sure, the long ball totals aren’t quite there, but he’s obviously shown he can handle Minor League pitching.
MLB Pipeline's No. 60 overall prospect clearly caught on fast with Palm Beach to begin his professional career and needed just 27 games to earn his first promotion. He batted .374 with a 1.162 OPS, six homers and 21 RBIs with the Cardinals before getting the bump to High-A Peoria before the end of June.
Although he hasn’t produced at the same incredible rate, Walker’s first two months with the Chiefs were still tremendous -- especially for one of the younger players at the level.
"I've always loved playing tough competition. Whether it's hard-throwers or people who throw to spots. It's just been my thing," Walker told KSDK in St. Louis a week after his promotion. "I always thought that playing in high school wasn't the best competition. I always thought that playing kids who didn't throw hard or very accurately didn't really do anything for me. I'm always looking to get better. So [Peoria] is the perfect setting. Low-A was the perfect start for me because it introduced me to how professional baseball would be. Sometimes it's 97 [mph] on the corner, sometimes it's 97 at your face. So I've got to learn and adjust."
Signing with the #STLCards was an "easy decision" for Jordan Walker, who officially became a member of the organization on Tuesday.— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) June 24, 2020
More from @anne__rogers on the @Cardinals' first-round #MLBDraft pick: https://t.co/xbsB0Rp9cE pic.twitter.com/Yl709Se2hn
Of course, Walker is a bat-first prospect, but his athleticism will open a lot of doors as he climbs the ladder.
After recording just one stolen base at Palm Beach, he’s been turned loose in Peoria, swiping 11 bags on 13 attempts.
But that athleticism is also going to provide options on the defensive side of the ball, especially if he’s blocked at his natural position of third base by Nolan Arenado, who is currently under contract through 2027.
Walker’s other plus tool is his arm strength, which, coupled with his power, may give him a future as a corner outfielder. But the organization remains hopeful that he can stick in the infield.
“Normally, when you have someone of his size and physicality, you’re seeing someone who maybe you’re starting to think of moving to the outfield,” Randy Flores, the Cardinals’ assistant GM and director of scouting, told MLB.com after the Draft. “But I believe that his actions, his grace, his speed is reflective of athleticism that positions him for the longest chance possible to stay on the dirt [at third base].”
So far, Walker has played exclusively at third base. But if he can capitalize on his long ball potential, that power can play in any spot on the field.
Here's what the experts at MLB Pipeline have to say about Walker:
Scouting grades (20-80 scale)
“The 2019-20 Georgia Gatorade Baseball Player of the Year, Walker hit .457 with four homers and posted a 1.555 OPS through 16 games before the coronavirus pandemic forced the cancellation of the rest of his senior season. He had already established himself as the top corner-infield prospects in the 2020 high school class and passed up a commitment to Duke after the Cardinals selected him 21st overall and signed him for $2.9 million. Walker drew rave reviews for his performance at the alternate training site in 2020 and showed why in 2021. He got off to a fast start with Palm Beach and worked his way up to High-A Peoria at 19 years old.
At 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds, Walker has easy bat speed and frequently posts exit velocities over 100 mph. The power potential is obvious, but the big frame creates a naturally long swing and there are questions about his ability to hit breaking balls. While there is some swing and miss in his game, he did shown an improved ability to make contact in 2021. With a strong work ethic and willingness to learn, so he should hit enough to be able to produce the desired power numbers.
Athletic for his size, the hope is for Walker to remain at third base, where he has spent the entirely of his brief professional career. However, if he loses some quickness and he continues to grow, his above-average arm and power bat would profile well at either first base or a corner outfield spot.”
Gerard Gilberto is a reporter for MiLB.com.