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What do the Cardinals have in Jordan Walker?

Syndication: The News-Leader Andrew Jansen/News-Leader / USA TODAY NETWORK

Jordan Walker

DOB- 5/22/2002

6’5 220

B/T - R/R

Player comp- 2016 Aaron Judge

Jordan Walker is putting up elite numbers at the Double-A level this year. Walker has slashed .316/.513/.923 to go along with six home runs, 16 doubles and 14 stolen bases as of June 11th. Walker, who, according to MLB Pipeline, is the Cardinals’ top prospect, ahead of the likes of Nolan Gorman and Matthew Liberatore, is also viewed to be one of the best overall prospects in baseball. There are some question marks surrounding his game like the length of his swing and how well his athleticism will hold up over time. However, similar to the case with Gorman, there is no denying the prodigious raw power that Walker brings to the table.

There are two immediate red flags that jump out to me when evaluating Walker’s swing; the first being his stride direction. Seen in the video, Walker starts with a slightly open stance, and there is nothing wrong with that. The problem with it is, rather than stepping in or directly to the pitcher, his front foot always steps in the direction of the third base line. As a result, this causes his front hip to open up, putting him in automatic pull mode no matter the location of the pitch. This is a problem that most prevalently shows on soft stuff away, as he is always pulling off of the pitch. This results in him making weak contact to where he softly rolls over the ball. This is something that needs to be corrected as more advanced pitchers with refined command are consistently going to attack him low and away until he can make an adjustment.

The second problem that I see with Walker is his hand movement during the swing. Walker is very quiet before the pitch is delivered. However, once the pitch is thrown, his hands move down, then back, and then come forward, which means they are entering two planes during his swing. This is something that is going to cause his swing to get way too long and make it nearly impossible to catch up to high velocity up in the zone which is another hole in his swing.

The Aaron Judge comparison comes into play because of his stance and the holes in his swing. When Judge first came up with the Yankees, like Walker, he had an extremely upright stance that made it difficult to get to some pitches and also to fully tap into his lower half. He then made an adjustment to where he added significant bend in his knees and paired it with an open stance which forced his front foot to move in at the start of the swing.

Walker’s biggest strength is his overall power. If he can piece everything together as a player, it is extremely easy to envision him hitting 30 or more home runs per season in his prime. His power does not come from overly quick hands or elite bat speed, rather coming from the great strength he possesses as a player. When Walker can get behind the ball, he can drive it with relative ease and consistently post elite exit velocities. Along with his plus raw power, Walker also brings an extremely strong throwing arm with him to the hot corner, being able to make throws from any depth.

Walker does a great job of tracking foul balls that he has to range back on, as he can stay in stride throughout the play, rather than having to slow down and track it. Despite his size, Walker is also a good base runner with about average speed, having already posted 14 stolen bases as of June 11th. He likely will not be a major stolen base threat at the Major League level, however it is certainly possible that he can pick his spots and steal around 10-15 bases a year.

Walker’s biggest weaknesses as a player come with his swing, a lot of which was outlined earlier in the article, so we won’t go back over those issues — although there still are some issues with his overall approach. Walker does, at times, show a willingness to work the count and spit on pitches out of the zone, but there are too many instances in which it appears Walker predetermines that he is swinging no matter the location of the pitch. Walker does struggle with pitch recognition, being well ahead of off-speed and breaking pitches away.

As a fielder, Walker does struggle in a few areas. One area of weakness for Walker is his lack of ability to play hard hit short hops. Rather than trying to get in front of the ball to, at most, knock it down, Walker constantly tries to pick the ball from the side, which results in far too many balls going off of his glove and into the outfield. This is something that can and will be worked on as Walker gets more seasoning as a pro, but it is something of note, nonetheless. Along with this, Walker struggles to fluidly go down and get the ball when ranging to his right or left and come up with it and throw it all in one motion. Part of this is because of his size; there are naturally going to be more moving parts which is going to make it more difficult to make these plays with ease. Although, it is also in part due to the fact that he gets over his feet too much with his upper body when ranging to the side which affects his overall balance. Walker’s other problem as a fielder which is also something that is more than correctable is understanding when to hold onto the ball and when to try and make a play. There are too many instances in which Walker rushes his throw on a play that has next to no chance of resulting in an out. In turn, the throw is off target significantly, forcing the first baseman well off of the bag to get the ball or it simply gets by them.

Walker’s stance, hand path, and front foot are major red flags for me in evaluating his overall game at the plate. It is more than possible that these things get changed as he gains more and more experience playing pro ball; nonetheless, they are still concerning. He has too many holes in his swing as a result of them and despite picking on Double-A pitchers, Triple-A and Major League pitchers are going to take advantage of these holes until he adapts. If he can correct these flaws, due to his raw power, he will carve out a big-league career as, at minimum, a designated hitter who can hit 30+ home runs a season. Although, if he cannot, it is tough to see him carving out any type of Major League career.

Future grades

Hit - 45 - Power - 60 - Speed - 50 - Fielding - 50 - Arm - 60