Cards option top prospect Jordan Walker to Triple-A

Rookie to get consistent ABs with Memphis as he looks to make adjustments at the plate

April 27th, 2023

SAN FRANCISCO -- In an attempt to improve ’s potential of doing more serious offensive damage while also trying to alleviate some of the team’s logjam in the outfield, the Cardinals optioned their top prospect to Triple-A Memphis on Wednesday.

Walker, 20, made the Opening Day roster out of Spring Training and had been a mainstay in the St. Louis lineup since the start of the season when he opened his MLB career with a 12-game hitting streak. However, the 6-foot-6, 245-pound Walker did not play on Monday or Tuesday after his bat slumped, both losses to the Giants.

Walker was informed of the move following Tuesday night’s 5-4 loss to the Giants. Cardinals president John Mozeliak said he had been contemplating the move for about a week as a way to try to unlock more production and consistency from a crowded outfield that also included Tyler O’Neill, Lars Nootbaar, Dylan Carlson and Alec Burleson. The team’s hope is that getting more out of its outfield will help it shed a disappointing 9-15 start that had it tied for last in the NL Central and seven games back of the Pirates coming into Wednesday’s play.

“We want to let everybody understand their roles, where they’re going to play and why and take a lot of that uncertainty out,” Mozeliak said. “I think a lot of our outfielders were wondering when they were going to play, if they were going to play and why they were going to play. Now this will give them a little more certainty as well.

“When things aren’t working and you keep doing the same things over and over again, it’s insanity, so we have to try to do something different,” Mozeliak added. “We talked a lot the last few days, especially in Seattle [last weekend], about how can we get more consistent with what we have.”

Walker had a strong start to 2023, hitting safely in the first 12 games of his MLB career. In that span, he slashed .319/.360/.480 with two homers and eight RBIs. In the eight games since that streak ended, though, Walker's average was down to .192 and he struck out nine times in 28 plate appearances with only one extra-base hit (a double) in that span.

Walker flew from San Francisco to Durham, N.C., on Wednesday to join the Memphis squad. He is likely to be in the lineup with the Redbirds in the next day or so, Mozeliak said.

Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said Walker took the news of the demotion well and asked “awesome” follow-up questions about what he needs to work on to improve to the Majors. Marmol said there’s no doubt that the Cardinals will see Walker again soon.

“[The move was made] because of Jordan’s talent and what we think he’s capable of doing,” Marmol said. “We think this is the best way in a shorter amount of time to get the at-bats needed to make the adjustments. But you’re crazy if you think this kid isn’t going to be back up here.”

On Tuesday, Marmol said Walker was spending extra time with hitting coach Turner Ward to work on fixing his posture at the plate in hopes of helping him hit more line drives and home runs instead of sharp ground balls. At the time of his demotion, Walker had a ground-ball rate of 60.4 percent.

“Jordan is working on a couple of things with [Ward] and that group with his overall posture and rotation -- one, to see the ball better and when he swings to keep it off the ground,” Marmol said before Tuesday's loss. “I had a good conversation with Jordan [on Monday] as far as where he thinks he is with [his high ground-ball rate]. He’s going to get it, but there are some things that are going to lower the amount of times he’s swinging at balls out of the zone and where he’s hitting it.”

So far this season, Walker has hit .333 against breaking balls and .259 against fastballs, but he is 0-for-7 against offspeed pitches. 

“It’s a combination of what he’s swinging at and the way he’s setting up and rotating,” Marmol said. “It’s about when he does make contact, giving him the best shot at [the ball] being off the ground.

“For as hard as he hits the ball, a lot more are going to get through because of how hard he hits it,” Marmol added. “But that still isn’t anything near what he's capable of doing. This is a guy who hits the ball at the top of the league, so if he learns how to get it off the ground, there are a lot of extra-base hits and homers awaiting him.”