Jordan Walker made a massive rise to one of baseball’s top prospects after a strong 2022 season. Walker has always had the pedigree and was one of the highest-ranked high school prospects in the 2020 MLB draft. Swing-and-miss concerns led him to fall to the Cardinals with the 21st overall pick. The organization has to be pleased with how he has developed.
Walker began his career strong in 2021 between Low- and High-A, but some still had questions. He began 2022 in Double-A and mashed baseballs with a slash of .306/.388/.510. A 19-HR and 22-SB performance did not fully encapsulate how well Jordan Walker performed all season. A strong Arizona Fall League solidified him as one of the game’s top prospects.
Will Walker debut early in 2023? If so, what should you expect from a fantasy perspective? Let’s take a look at his profile.
Jordan Walker: 2023 Fantasy Baseball Breakout
2022 Stats (AA): 536 PA/.306/.388/.510/ 19 HR/22 SB/100 R/68 RBI
This headline may be deceiving, as Jordan Walker already broke out in 2022. But there is a strong chance that Walker will break camp with the St. Louis Cardinals in the spring, making him a valuable fantasy baseball asset sooner than later. With Walker’s domination of Double-A, plus his strong Arizona Fall League performance, a strong Spring Training could vault Walker onto the Cardinals roster.
Walker has spent most of his career as a third baseman and even played 70 games there this season in Double-A. But, when it became evident that Walker was pushing closer to being ready to debut, he began to transition to the outfield. Nolan Arenado opted into the remaining five years of his contract, locking down the third base position for the Cardinals. First base is not an immediate option either, with Paul Goldschmidt being signed through 2024. So, the natural place for Walker was in the outfield.
After transitioning to the outfield on August 2nd, he only appeared at third base in a pinch hitter role. Moving forward, Walker saw time at all three outfield spots and spent the entirety of the Arizona Fall League working in the outfield. I saw him play both center and right field, and he moves well enough to be a solid glove in a corner spot. Walker’s athleticism will allow him to be a solid glove until he can move back to a corner infield spot.
Jordan Walker‘s Power
Power is easily the best part of Jordan Walker‘s game. His 19 home runs in Double-A don’t do any justice to how much power is in Walker’s profile. Among prospects with at least 400 plate appearances in 2022, only seven hitters had a higher 90th-percentile exit velocity. Walker checked in at 107.9 mph for the regular season. In 30 batted ball events in the Arizona Fall League, Walker posted an impressive 111.1 mph 90th-percentile exit velocity. For reference, the 111.2 mark would have ranked fourth in the Majors behind only Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, and Oneil Cruz. The fall league was a small sample but showed Walker’s power potential.
In the video below, you can see Walker putting a charge into the ball to the deepest part of the park. A cold night is the only reason it stayed in the park.
Walker can hit the ball to all fields with authority. His swing is geared for line drives, and the power comes easily. Walker keeps his weight back, which helps create the natural loft in his swing. You can see an excellent example of this in the video below. Walker keeps his weight back and has a solid front leg block which allows his back leg to drop and create a powerful lower half. He explodes through the ball and launches balls to the moon. There is no denying Jordan Walker‘s power, and a 40-home-run season would not be a surprise.
Jordan Walker‘s Plate Discipline
The power is undeniable, and by the looks of his batting averages, you might also have high expectations for that. His career Minor League slash line is .310/.388/.525 across 902 plate appearances. That comes with a 22.5 percent strikeout rate and a ten percent walk rate. Across the board, these numbers are pretty impressive, especially for someone who began the 2022 season as a 19-year-old. But what do the peripheral numbers look like?
At first glance, his in-zone contact rate of 77.1% last season is a bit disappointing. MLB league average last season was 85.3%. Don’t be overly discouraged, though, because Walker is quite aggressive on pitches in the zone. His zone-swing rate last season was 75.3%, nearly seven percentage points higher than the MLB average.
Walker sometimes does chase breaking pitches, but if a pitcher leaves a breaker or offspeed in the zone, Walker makes the pitcher pay. Fastballs do not cause problems for Walker, as he posted a .360 batting average against and does not swing and miss often.
Despite the chase against breakers, Walker still excelled. If he does make some adjustments and stays back on breakers, watch out. The ceiling on Walker is immense.
Jordan Walker‘s Fantasy Outlook
With a strong Spring Training, it is not out of the possibility that Jordan Walker is on the Cardinals’ Opening Day roster. At this time, it may be a bit of a longshot with the Cardinals’ outfield depth, but things could change quickly throughout the offseason. What should fantasy managers expect if Walker plays an entire season in the Majors?
Expectations are likely sky-high, as with any top prospect making their debut. Walker will bring massive power to the Cardinals’ lineup and will likely slot in a corner outfield spot. The top four in the lineup are likely set between Tommy Edman, Willson Contreras, Paul Goldschmidt, and Nolan Arenado. But it seems that the five-hole could be a realistic landing spot.
Twenty-five home runs is a reasonable expectation and should be a considerable feat for a hitter who will not turn 21 years old until late May. Walker projects as a .260-.270 type hitter early in his career with room for growth. You may not even think about speed in Walker’s game, but he stole 22 bases and was only caught five times in 2022. He recorded a high-end sprint speed of 29.9 feet/second. For reference, that top-end sprint speed would rank 12th in all of MLB last season. 10-to-15 steals in the early part of Jordan Walker‘s career seem like a reasonable mark.
It is probably too late to buy in on Jordan Walker in a dynasty league. He is already one of the game’s top prospects. But if you believe Walker will continue his ascent toward a top dynasty asset, it may make sense to try and trade for him.
In redraft, Walker checks in on NFBC ADP with an average pick of 250 in Draft Champion leagues. There is quite a range, though, as Walker has a high pick of 186 and a low of 398. Anywhere after pick 250 seems like a reasonable spot to draft Jordan Walker, just in case he is an everyday player for the Cardinals in 2023.
Featured image by Doug Carlin (@Bdougals on Twitter)