With homer in his first Grapefruit League start, Jordan Walker begins pursuit Cardinals opening day roster

St. Louis Cardinals' Jordan Walker carries his gear after taking batting practice during spring...
St. Louis Cardinals' Jordan Walker carries his gear after taking batting practice during spring training baseball practice Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023, in Jupiter, Fla. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)(Jeff Roberson | AP)
Published: Feb. 27, 2023 at 1:20 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - For top prospect Jordan Walker to turn enough heads to land a spot on the Cardinals’ opening day roster out of spring training, his performance throughout the Grapefruit League schedule would conceivably need to be pretty impressive.

In the first at-bat of his first start this spring on Sunday afternoon at Roger Dean Stadium, Walker announced that he would be accepting the challenge.

Walker punctuated a five-run first inning for the Cardinals with a three-run home run against veteran MLB pitcher Johnny Cueto.

In one of the most pitcher-friendly ballparks around, Walker walloped Cueto’s offering deep into Jupiter’s blue sky over the wall in left-center field to put the Cardinals up 5-0 in the top of the first. St. Louis won the Grapefruit League contest over Miami, 8-2.

The Cardinals have discussed the outfield competition at length already this spring--and that’s where Walker could fit into the club. St. Louis shifted Walker, previously a third baseman in the minors, to the outfield following last season’s trade deadline move that sent Harrison Bader to New York.

Though Walker saw time at all three outfield positions down the stretch last season, Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol explained that the corner outfield spots are more likely for Walker this season. The manager characterized that decision as coming as a result of the already-ample competition in center field this spring between Dylan Carlson, Lars Nootbaar and Tyler O’Neill.

But anyone else who has seen Walker up close this spring knows and appreciates the impressive nature of his abilities and demeanor at just 20 years old.

“He gets lost in the competition rather than making the moment any bigger than it is,” Marmol told reporters of Walker Monday morning in Jupiter. “He’s going about it really well, but this is a super mature kid.”

A first-round selection by St. Louis in the 2020 MLB Draft, Walker advanced to Double-A Springfield last season, posting a .306 batting average and .898 OPS against competition several years his senior on average. With his first homer of the spring Sunday, Walker announced his presence and made clear that he can help the big-league team in St. Louis sooner rather than later.