Jordan Walker On The Hunt To Make The Cardinals Opening Day Roster

Image credit: Jordan Walker (Getty Images)

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla – It’s early, but with each passing day Jordan Walker’s case to break camp with the Cardinals major league team gets stronger. On Saturday afternoon, Walker started in left field and was slotted into the two-hole of the Cardinals lineup in their matinee against the Washington Nationals. Visiting Cardinals fans showed up at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches to get a glimpse at the burgeoning superstar. 

Walker didn’t disappoint, as he went 4-for-4 with two home runs and a double, driving in three and scoring three times. The home runs were anything but cheap, as Walker turned around 98 mph from Cade Cavalli in the third, depositing the ball 470 feet into the berm in left center.

In the fifth Walker returned to the plate, roping a double from long time MLB reliever Alex Colome to center field. Walker would come around to score on a home run off the bat of fellow Cardinals youngster Nolan Gorman in the following at bat. 

Now just a triple away from the cycle, Walker stepped to the plate in the seventh to face major league veteran Chad Kuhl. The crowd greeted the Walker with a rousing cheer as he stepped into the batter’s box. With two strikes, Walker jumped on another poorly located pitch in the lower half of the zone and drove it 450 feet to left center field again. 


Walker exited the game in the bottom of the 7th, with a 4-for-4 line and a building case for his inclusion on the Cardinals opening day roster. It’s not unusual for top prospects to perform in early spring training games, but more often than not, it’s against later inning fringe relievers and upper minors organizational arms. Walker’s four hits on Saturday were against four different pitchers with major league experience in Josiah Gray, Cade Cavalli, Alex Colome and Chad Kuhl

He showed the ability to turn around on premium velocity and handle pitches in a variety of spots within the zone, as he fought off junk and forced the Nationals pitchers to throw fastballs. Entering the day, Walker was already building a strong case to break camp with the Cardinals and it’s starting to look like his job to win. 

The recent updates to the Collective Bargaining Agreement might push the Cardinals hand. As the new CBA rewards clubs for breaking camp with top prospects that accrue a full season of service time and garner post-season award consideration, with what’s called a PPI or  Prospect Promotion Incentive pick after the first round. The Cardinals are known for optimizing draft capital and how they handle Walker’s potential opening day roster spot might earn them a valuable asset. 

While this might be an easy decision for many clubs the Cardinals boast a log jam of players that are of everyday regular ability or better, with outfielders Tyler O’Neill, Dylan Carlson and Lars Nootbaar all almost assuredly members of the Cardinals 26-man roster. Juan Yepez and Lars Nootbaar are expected to compete for time at the DH spot, but each players lack of defensive value, might see the pair work into a time-share platoon at the designated hitter spot. 

With limited outfield experience, the most reasonable remaining question mark around Walker’s ability to make the team out of camp is his ability to handle the outfield everyday. He had a total of just 52 games in the outfield, split between the end of the 2022 season with Double-A Springfield and Salt River of the Arizona Fall League. It’s not a question of physical abilities and Walker registers plus sprint speeds via Statcast and has long had a plus throwing arm. It’s simply a matter of comfort. 

Sources Baseball America has spoken with have been adamant that Walker is intertwined in a legitimate camp battle for the starting left field job and after Saturday’s performance it’s easy to see why.

Just a week ago, we posted this Quick Hits video looking at Walker’s talent and his chances to break camp with the team. It may be time for us to update it.

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