Jordan Walker batted third for the Cardinals in Wednesday’s game against the Marlins. Undoubtedly looking to heat up, the rookie went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts.

Uh-oh. This looks like a slump.

The talent-packed outfield prospect entered the ballpark with a .340 average, .352 onbase percentage and .604 slug. Add in Walker’s five doubles, three homers and nine RBI, and it’s easy to understand why Cardinal fans are so excited about a marvel who won’t turn 21 until May 20.

Unfortunately, Walker has cooled off.

This was inevitable. This was expected. This is spring training. Through his first six exhibition games, Walker was batting .500 with three homers and a .813 slugging percentage. To state the obvious, this early pace was unsustainable, and Walker surely would lose altitude.

The good news? Over time, Walker’s ability to wallop pitches with his high exit-velocity fury will override the usual downturns.

This is where I write the word “however.”

While sliding into second base on March 11 against the Astros, Walker suffered a shoulder strain that was reported as “mild” or “minor.” After having a couple of days of resting/healing time, Walker retired to action on March 14.

He hasn’t hasn’t done much since then. In his last seven games Walker is 4-for-24 (.167) with eight strikeouts, no walks, two doubles, and a .250 slugging percentage. His strikeout rate over this time is an eye-opening 33.3%.

Walker rocked the Nationals with two booming home runs on March 4, and his space exploration left the Cardinals and their fans in awe. At that point Walker had three homers and nine RBI in only seven games and 18 at-bats. Phenomenal.

Hello, St. Louis!

Slow down.

Walker hasn’t homered since that glorious power show on March 4. The homerless streak has stretched to 11 games.

A few things:

(1) Note to self: Don’t overreact to thin-slice statistical samples. Especially in spring training. Especially with rookies. But Walker definitely is struggling.

(2) Until his recent difficulties, Walker was having one of the best springs of any MLB hitter. Technically he’s still 20 years old and has never played above the Double A level in the minors. Including the Arizona Fall League, Walker has only 222 minor-league games to his name.

(3) Here’s my primary concern: Is the shoulder a contributing factor in Walker’s drop in power? We’ll find out soon enough. But several days ago, JW’s exit velo was the highest of any elite prospect that’s received plenty of at-bats in a major-league camp this spring.

(4) Disregard the team’s spin. How many times has this organization downplayed the severity of an injury, only to later reveal the truth? Frankly, I’ve lost count. (See: Jack Flaherty.)

(5) If you want to get mad at me for putting Walker under scrutiny, that’s fine. If Walker hadn’t dinged the shoulder, I probably wouldn’t be writing about his mini-slump. But either way, I certainly would be making a note of his recent form at the plate.

Look, writing about this isn’t a bad thing. I’m not trying to be a killjoy. My feelings are sincere. I believe it’s imperative to be fair and reasonable here by understanding that all rookies progress at their own rate.

Just a random sampling:

* At the end of his first month in the big back in 2001, Albert Pujols was hitting .370 with a .739 slug and a 1.171 OPS. Goodness. But there’s only one Albert Pujols.

* In his first 112 games for the Angels in 1993-94, Jim Edmonds had five homers in 350 at-bats.

* In his first month in the majors (1986) Mark McGwire batted .186 for the A’s.

* Rockies rookie Nolan Arenado had a .229 average and .662 OPS after breaking in late in the 2013 season.

* Cal Ripken Jr. batted .128 for the Orioles in his first 23 MLB games near the end of the 1981 season – then hit .186 in his first 26 games of the ‘82 season. I bring Ripken into this for a personal reason: I was in attendance for most of his early games at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium, and I vividly remember having a conversation with my friends that ran along the lines of, “Is he really as good as the Orioles say he is? Are they gonna send him down?”

Walker has only one walk in 58 plate appearances this spring. His onbase percentage — .424 not long ago — is down to .328. I think it’s important for Walker to make pitchers work and draw more walks – if for no other reason than to let MLB pitchers know he’s unpredictable. They’ll know that they can make pitches off the pate and Walker will be swinging. Don’t make it so easy for them. During my many years of writing about baseball, numerous hitters have told me that the best thing to do to end a slump was to reset by taking walks.

Hypothetical question: If Walker continues to struggle, would it impact the Cardinals’ thinking on his starting point for 2023?

St. Louis?

Triple A Memphis?

Or dare we say the Injured List?

If the shoulder is bothering Walker – even just a little – then what’s the rush? Take care of it ASAP and let Walker get to full strength even if it means a short stint on the IL. I’d rather see Walker swinging at 100 percent capability at the start of his major-league journey.

There’s no benefit to putting him in the majors right away if he’s limited. And if Walker tells manager Oli Marmol and the media that he feels fine, just be sure he’s not trying to convince himself of that. Players almost always try to talk their way into the lineup.

As Tony La Russa might say: give Walker the chance to take his best shot. Don’t set up the rookie for early failure and frustration. And if the shoulder is a factor, don’t put him at risk to aggravate it and make things worse.

If Walker spends some time in Memphis to recalibrate, it would make him better prepared to take on MLB pitching. He needs to improve against offspeed and breaking pitches. In this scenario he’d likely be joining the Cardinals soon enough.

Walker will be a Cardinal for a long time, which is another obvious reason to take a more patient approach if necessary. This team has plenty of outfielders right now – too many, if there is such a thing.

The March 30 regular-season opener is right around the corner, and the Cardinals must be smart with their future franchise piece by making sure he’s absolutely ready to go.

Thanks for reading …


Bernie invites you to listen to his sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS-AM. It airs Monday through Thursday from 3-6 p.m. and Friday from 4-6 p.m. You can listen by streaming online or by downloading the show podcast at or the 590 app.

Follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz

Listen to the “Seeing Red” podcast on the Cardinals, featuring Will Leitch and Miklasz. It’s available on your preferred podcast platform. Or follow @seeingredpod on Twitter for a direct link.

All stats used in this column were sourced from Baseball Reference and


Bernie Miklasz

Bernie Miklasz

For the last 35 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.

While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.

Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.