What do a small school signing, a free agent pick-up and a position change all have in common? To answer that riddle, first look at the marquee name who will get most of the publicity for Springfield this summer. Jordan Walker merits plenty of attention and will be the main focus for teams in the former Texas League for as long as he puts on that uniform.
As mentioned Friday to the family next to me Opening Night, Walker is on his way to becoming a top ten prospect in the game simply based on his birthday. The teenager was aggressively sent after only 55 games in Peoria to the proving grounds that make-or-break some of the best prospects. Names such as Oscar Taveras, Bobby Witt Jr and Nolan Gorman all were young for the league but none were 19 like Walker.
Mike Trout over a decade ago is the best example I can find that explains the faith St. Louis has in their next offensive star. It was also put that way for a reason, but that’s a post for another day. Instead of focusing on Walker, tonight the initial Prospect Preacher outing of 2022 centers on Walker’s supporting cast. The similarities between the two clubs that call Missouri home are striking so maybe that’s by design. Pitching depth was once the calling card of the Cardinals but advanced bats could very well be the wave of future.
Walker’s arrival to Double-A most impacted another highly touted prospect who has shifted across the diamond. Malcom Nunez provides a very similar profile to Walker as a bat-first right handed hitter that will add power once his frame fills out completely. Nunez just turned 21 which seems impossible until you factor in that it was 2018 when he destroyed the DSL and made the leap to Springfield last summer to take over for Gorman. Now learning on the fly at first base, Nunez will benefit both from the DH being in play as well as not having to be the focus of media or fan expectations. That will enable him to relax and let his best asset – hitting- take center stage.
In addition to Walker and Nunez, another newcomer to Springfield is no stranger to the pressure of performing from a very early age. Moises Gomez was an under-the-radar signing for the organization back in November after making it to Double-A in the Tampa Bay system. The right-handed center fielder from Venezuela needed a fresh start and could find himself in Memphis soon if the early results are any indication. He wasn’t in the Opening Day lineup but has certainly made up for lost time in a hurry. Two home runs today paced the offense for the SCards as the 23-year old helps his younger teammates navigate life on the road.
The elder statesman of the group, Matt Koperniak, not only knows Double A but also what it takes to survive the undrafted route. The pride of Trinity, Connecticut would not be unfazed by a move to Memphis but leading off for Springfield certainly helps set the table for the mashers that the SCards employ. Koperniak wasted no time by unloading Opening Night off a lefty and showed off his wheels today with a pair of stolen bases.
It is early in the calendar but the Cardinals can already put the mostly bad memories of last year behind them as the fantastic four pace Springfield. Do yourself a favor and catch the excitement early before Memphis or St. Louis come calling for reinforcements.