Springfield Cardinals: Jordan Walker handles the hot corner and high expectations

In his second minor league season, and only at 19 years old, Jordan Walker drew the start at...
In his second minor league season, and only at 19 years old, Jordan Walker drew the start at third base in the Springfield Cardinals home opener Friday.(KY3)
Published: Apr. 9, 2022 at 2:02 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 9, 2022 at 10:27 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - It’s not often you see a young ballplayer climb the ranks as quickly as St. Louis Cardinals prospect Jordan Walker.

In his second minor league season, and only at 19 years old, Walker drew the start at third base in the Springfield Cardinals home opener Friday, an 11-8 loss to the Northwest Arkansas Naturals. The 2020 first-round draft pick is the only teenager currently rostered by St. Louis’ Double-A affiliate minor league affiliate, and it only took him one series to display talents of that stature.

“When they told me, I was coming to Double-A, there was no other feeling other than excitement,” said Walker in preseason interviews earlier this week. “Getting back on the field in front of fans, it’s going to be a nice feeling.”

Patrolling the hot corner on a cold season opener Friday, Walker dove to his left to stop a hard-hit ground ball and fired it to first base to secure a 1-2-3 third inning. Walker told the Ozarks Sports Zone earlier this week he worked hard on his defensive mechanics in spring training, and the play was a prime example of that.

The 6-foot-5 prospect has primarily slugged his way to his Springfield promotion with a .317 batting average, 14 home runs and 48 RBI in 82 minor league games last season.

In his second game of the new season Saturday, he picked up two run-scoring line drive singles and drew a bases loaded walk, bringing home three pivotal runs in Springfield’s 14-11 win over Northwest Arkansas. He also scored twice and connected for several hard-hit balls in his Double-A debut Friday. Scouts have touted Walker for his ability to produce hits on triple-digit bat speeds.

Walker spent last season with two St. Louis Cardinals Single-A affiliates in Peoria and West Palm Beach. He had the chance to practice at Hammons Field in 2020, when it was used as an alternate site for Cardinals prospects in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. He hopes the familiarity will lead to big results in 2022.

“Everybody in the organization says this is a hitter’s ballpark compared to Peoria and Palm Beach,” said Walker. “It’s really exciting to play in a ballpark where it will fly a little bit.”

The Georgia native is working to develop a routine, and he says his work at spring camp helped with that. Walker has worked on his defensive mechanics with St. Louis Cardinals coach Jose Oquendo in recent weeks. He also had the chance to watch Albert Pujols, Nolan Arenado and other big leaguers after MLB lifted its lockout on March 10.

“Seeing their routine and how it plays towards the game, and seeing how important it is, I think that’s the biggest thing I picked up on,” said Walker. “I want to have a solid routine going into my future.”

Teammates and coaches are looking forward to Walker’s opportunity in the Queen City.

“He’s the biz, man,” said infielder Delvin Perez on Walker. “I think he’s going to be in the big leagues very soon. He’s got everything.”

“He’s super mature in everything he does and his preparation,” said outfielder Chase Pinder on Walker. “I think honestly, that’s what’s going to take him to the next level.”

“He’s a great kid to work with, very down to earth, very humble,” said Springfield Cardinals manager Jose Leger. “[He’s a] great talented young man, and it’s an honor to have him on the team.”

Ranked as the 30th overall prospect on MLB.com’s 2022 list, Walker also takes the top spot in the St. Louis Cardinals organization. He’s the second major prospect to start the season at Springfield’s hot corner over the last two seasons after a fellow first-round pick, Nolan Gorman, worked up to the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds last summer.

Despite the ranking, Walker hopes to make more strides and stay grounded in his first season with Springfield.

“I don’t really think too much about it,” said Walker on his prospect ranking. “It doesn’t change how I view myself or other people in this organization. It’s cool hearing about it, but at the end of the day I’m still trying to get to the major leagues, and that’s my goal. I’m not there yet, so I still have work to do.”

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