This season didn’t go like most seasons. The Cardinals were terrible. I stopped writing here very much, with nothing after the blog anniversary. However, some things must go on and that includes the Exit Interview series! Now in its 12th year, it’s our look back at each player that made an appearance in a game for the St. Louis Cardinals. We’re approaching it a little different this season, a little more literary and a little less statistical, but hopefully you enjoy it just the same. As always, I am grateful that cardinalsgifs has agreed to use his talent for the header image!
Player: Jordan Walker
Stats: 117 G, 465 PA, 51 R, 19 2B, 2 3B, 16 HR, 51 RBI, 7 SB, 4 CS, .276/.342/.445, -0.1 bWAR
Statcast: 7.5% barrel, 33.6% sweet spot, 114.3 max exit velocity, .341 wOBA, .333 xwOBA, 22.4% K, 8.0% BB
“They grab Ugarte and she walks in. Well, that’s the way it goes. One in, one out.”–Rick Blaine, Casablanca
As legendary Cardinal Adam Wainwright was walking off stage left, hopefully new Cardinal legend Walker was coming on stage right. Walker seemed ticketed to Memphis when spring training started, given that there was no real place for him to play and the fact that he still needed to learn how to play the outfield. With some playing time freed up by players in the World Baseball Classic, however, Walker took the opportunity and made it his, hitting .277 with three homers and turning a lot of heads. When it was all said and done, Walker got squeezed into the Opening Day roster.
He started his career with hits in 12 straight games, a new Cardinal record, but things were all hunky dory. Besides the fact that Walker’s fielding was similar to a person trying to catch a hand grenade, he was hitting a lot of ground balls. A lot of hard ground balls, to be sure, which led to some getting through the infield for hits, but that didn’t seem to be sustainable. So off to Memphis he went to make some adjustments.
He came back up after a month or so, though he had an interview which at least left the impression that he’d really just started playing the way he’d always played, though that was likely overblown. Whatever the case, after he returned he hit .277 with 14 homers and actually had his average over. 300 at the end of June. The defense came around as well as he continually improved his Outs Above Average number as the year went along.
For someone that couldn’t legally drink until he returned from Memphis, it was a really remarkable season. He wasn’t in contention for the Rookie of the Year as most of us expected–in fact, he didn’t get a single vote–but there’s no reason to think that he might not have as good or better of a career than anyone that did make it on the ballot. There’s a lot of reasons to be excited about Jordan Walker. His time on stage is just beginning.
What’s in store for 2024: Walker will come into camp as the starting right fielder and while he’ll probably see a little time in left or at DH, that’s where he’s going to be for the largest part of the year. If the defense continues to improve like it did during the season (his goal was to continue to work on it during the winter) this will be the last negative WAR year he’ll have for some time to come.