Cardinals (and fans) should mix optimism with caution when the Jordan Walker movie comes out

Jordan Walker was injured in Springfield and damaged Desert during the Arizona fall league.

His rapid rise up the prospects’ ranking lists happened with the same sensational speed with which he was catching baseballs and running the bases.

switch position? not important. Walker Trap left his familiar third base ground outfield and began producing impressive throws off the turf.

Other teams have tried to get rid of the 2020 first-round draft pick, the latest example coming in past the trade deadline, but the Cardinals haven’t said it over and over again.

All indications are that next season is where the major league payoff begins.

“We’ve got a lot of talent coming in,” said Cardinals’ president of baseball operations John Mozeliak, referring specifically to Walker.

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His rise is an exciting topic.

No need to try to put it out.

For a team that wants its pipeline to produce star power, the emergence of a player with Walker’s potential is a special kind of excitement.

There are two facts to remember, though, during the off-season that will continue to include a lot of Walker’s understandable hype.

First, Walker is not very young.

Oh, he’s young. He didn’t turn 21 as of May. As a reminder, Nolan Gorman, who had an up and down starting rookie lead this year, was called up in May 2022, at the age of 22. But let’s not forget, as we sometimes do, that there is a league-wide context looking beyond St. Louis. Early graduation of top odds is becoming more common.

MLS rookie Julio Rodriguez, 21, made the Mariners’ Opening Day roster after a solid performance in spring training. The quarterback earned All-Star and Silver Slugger honors while producing a . 284 batting average, 0.345 on-base percentage, and . 509 slugging percentage. He hit 28 home runs and 25 doubles – and stole 25 bases. He completely skipped Class AAA ball after playing just 46 games in Class AA.

Royal Marines player Bobby Witt Jr. made the Opening Day roster at age 21, then produced 20 home runs and 30 steals. His rookie season included more matches (150) than in Class AA (61) and Class AAA (62) combined.

Michael Harris, 21, never broke the National League rookie camp with the Braves, but he was promoted in late May and never left. 297 average with a .339 OPS and .514 slugging percentage, and hit 19 homers and 27 doubles in 414 at-bats. He never played in Class AAA and only spent 43 games in Class AA before being called up by the Braves.

Tigers quarterback Riley Green, who just turned 22, was one of Detroit’s few bright spots last season. Padres turned countryman C.J. Abrams, who just turned 22, helped swing a deal for Juan Soto, and he’s expected to be the Nationals’ starter going forward. And don’t forget Rays shortstop Wonder Franco, who debuted in June 2021. He’s 21 as of March. He produced a strong two-season OPS of . 776 despite a wrist injury that cut short his playing time in 2022.

This game is getting younger every season. Talent improves early on, and teams get more rested to allow some aspects of development to speed up, especially if some components, such as a player’s racket, are ready for the league now. It’s also important to remember that the new collective bargaining agreement incentivizes teams with ready major league talent to refrain from blocking top prospects from the minors if they think they are ready. Teams can now earn additional draft picks if the higher-ranked rookies perform well enough upon promotion to win or rank high in certain awards during pre-judgemental seasons.

Early access does not guarantee immediate success.

Witt broke through for the Royals playing third base before moving to his natural shortstop position and then bouncing in order before locking in at second. Rodriguez hit between the sixth and eighth in the first month of the season before advancing to hit. Harris is the most impressive example of how a strong team can get the most out of an impressive rookie without putting too much pressure on his shoulders. His promotion to the Premier League has been cut out of the bottom four places in the standings, mainly in ninth place.

Teams that want to aggressively promote exciting talent while also competing — teams like the Braves and Cardinals — can do what they like best by not asking even exceptional young players like Harris to do much on arrival.

Gorman’s ups and downs with the Cardinals last season showed just how manager Ole Marmul can and will work to move still-growing talent in and out of the spotlight while continuing to mature.

This bodes well for how Marmol Locker will manage when his time comes, but the best thing for Walker might not be the designated hitter role or platoon splits.

The best answer is that the Cardinals are pursuing their desire to add some legitimate heft to the lineup, so Walker doesn’t end up being called up for the heavy lifting the day he appears in St. Louis.

The Cardinals insist on looking to protect the lineup. It is critical. Here’s why. Their OPS lead of . 659 last season ranked 13th among National League clubs. Albert Pujols, who became the club’s third best batsman this year and provided mediocre material at a low salary, retired. Real estate around Goldschmidt and Arenado is shaky. very shaky.

Walker was given a chance to secure a spot on Marmol’s team during spring training. That goal, and not to provide protection for Goldschmidt and Arenado upon promotion, should be his only immediate challenge. If the Cardinals later end up having to make the difficult decision of who to hit from the meat in the standings to move on to Walker, that’s what you call your big deal.

Cool decks get used to it.

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Read the full article by Cardinals baseball writer Derek Gold

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