Nobody in AFL is mashing like Cards' Walker

October 21st, 2022

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- ’s swan song at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick featured a three-hit melody that helped his Rafters squad nab a 10-6 victory over the Solar Sox on Thursday afternoon. 

Walker has demurred in the past when asked about his hard-hit ability; after all, it feels like a byproduct of being 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds. But in his final Arizona Fall League contest that will boast Statcast data during 2022, the Cardinals’ No. 1 prospect put a cherry on top of his three-week sprint of home outings as he ripped all three of his knocks with an exit velocity of at least 103 mph.

Maybe more impressive than the speed of the ball coming off Walker’s bat is the spray chart of where his hits landed. He blistered singles directly back up the middle in the fourth (110.1 mph) and sixth (110.9), with a double to the base of the right-center-field fence in the fifth (103.4).

“What I’ve noticed in the [AFL] is that these pitchers are working on their stuff; these guys are really good, they're showing off their offspeed, so I have to change my approach,” Walker said. “Anything hard, I’m trying to take the other way; anything soft, I want to try to see it and drive it, left-center gap or up the middle.”

Then it should come as no surprise that his singles to center came on offspeed offerings, while his deep drive to the opposite field came off a 98 mph heater.

It’s certainly not the first time during the AFL that Walker’s prodigious skill set has put him on the map. There was a throw on Oct. 10 that registered at 99.5 mph, which would have set the St. Louis franchise high for a throw from a fielder, dating back to at least 2015. There has been the sprint speed, which has ramped up into the territory of being judged “elite” when Walker has taken off down the first-base line. And, of course, there has been the power, with 434 and 423-foot homers under his belt.

A schedule quirk has meant that Walker will play the remainder of his games away from Salt River Fields beyond Friday. With just one home game to play, the four hardest-hit baseballs recorded during the Fall League that have fallen for a hit all belong to Walker, including his 110.9 mph single on Thursday.

“I feel like I’ve gotten some [hits] that I’ve hit pretty hard,” Walker said. “I feel like people see that it’s there, and I’m just going to focus on hitting the ball hard. It’s definitely fun.”

Fun has been at the heart of Salt River’s first three weeks of action. Despite an early losing skid, the club has rallied around its collective personality driven by Walker and Masyn Winn. The combo of Cardinals prospects atop the Salt River lineup delivered five RBIs Thursday, including a game-tying two-run knock by St. Louis’ No. 2 prospect in the sixth. The two have long been pals and lead an impressive Cards contingent in the desert.

Through his first 11 AFL outings, Walker has slashed .300/.362/.525 with a pair of homers and nine RBIs. Those numbers are nearly right in line with the .306/.388/.510 line that he put up across 119 games with Double-A Springfield during the regular season. 

Still just 20 years old, and in the midst of his first true full season of action, observers will have to stem their bewonderment until next year when it comes to the advanced data behind MLB’s No. 6 overall prospect. But if a stint in the premier fall circuit is any indication of things to come, Walker has shown that he can hit, run and throw among the game’s best young talent.