Jordan Walker: Cardinals 2022 Minor League Player Of The Year
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At the trade deadline, once their swaps were all complete, the Cardinals made one more move that could be the most impactful to their future.
They shifted Jordan Walker from third base to the outfield at Double-A Springfield.
Walker, not yet three months removed from his 20th birthday, punctuated his breakout season at the plate by showing deft and athletic play at all three outfield positions.
With that late-season relocation, Walker’s glove is going to open a way for his bat to reach St. Louis as soon as 2023, perhaps before he turns 21 on May 22.
“Whatever it takes for me to get to the league, I’m willing to do,” Walker told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch shortly after ordering his new outfielder's glove, a Juan Soto model.
In his final game for Springfield, Walker hit his 19th home run of the season, coming one homer shy of being the affiliate’s first ever 20-20 player. He finished the Texas League season hitting .306/.388/.510 with 22 stolen bases, 58 walks and 116 strikeouts in 119 games.
He was the only player in the league to score at least 100 runs. He finished top five in slugging while also hitting 31 doubles, third-most in the league. Some of those project to become home runs as he matures, strengthens and unlocks more power from a catapult swing built for it.
The Cardinals see indicators of Walker’s rapid rise from here, such as how quickly he adapted to playing the outfield, specifically the corners. He was viewed as playable in left with an arm that fits right field.
One of the top prospects in the minors, Walker will complete his season at the Arizona Fall League with more looks against older pitchers and more work in the outfield. All of this positions him for an expected invite to big league spring training and the developing competition the Cardinals have in the outfield.
The next move to make is his.
— In order to determine if his lefthanded swing is a fit for the postseason roster, the Cardinals called up 23-year-old Alec Burleson and planned to give him an extensive September look in the outfield and at DH. The 2020 supplemental second-round hit .331/.372/.532 with 20 home runs and 87 RBIs in 109 games for Triple-A Memphis.
— Righthander Inohan Paniagua’s performance for Low-A Palm Beach presents the Cardinals one of their more interesting decisions of winter. The 22-year-old will be Rule 5 draft eligible if left off the 40-man roster. In 25 starts, Paniagua was one of the system’s steadiest starters, logging a 2.81 ERA for a playoff team with 145 strikeouts in 137.2 innings. The Cardinals must consider how swiftly they think he will advance to St. Louis—and whether another team thinks it will be at warp speed.