With a 29-43 record, the Cardinals have given their fans plenty of reasons to feel angry and disillusioned, but the extensive list of concerns doesn’t include Jordan Walker.

The 21-year-old rookie has thrived since the Cardinals recalled him from Triple A Memphis on June 2, batting .327 with a .417 onbase percentage and .615 slug. Per wRC+, Walker has performed 83 percent above league average offensively since returning to the bigs. Over the weekend at New York, he extended his hitting streak to 12 games, and he’s definitely plugged in the power.

Walker’s notables:

Power ball: Before Memphis, he homered every 36.5 at-bats and slugged .397. After Memphis, he’s blasted a homer every 13 at-bats and is slugging .615.

Hitting streaks: Walker opened his MLB career with a 12-game hitting streak. And through Sunday, he has a new, 11-game hitting streak that’s loaded with production. Before Memphis: .489 slug, two homers and a .849 OPS in his first 12-game streak. After Memphis: he’s slugging .790 with four homers and a 1.267 OPS in his 11-game streak.

Crushing right-handed pitching: Walker bats from the right side, but RHP haven’t done much to shut him down. In 119 plate appearances vs. righties this season, Walker is batting .321 with a .395 onbase percentage and .519 slug. Per wRC+, he’s 54 percent above league average offensively when taking on righties.

Five of Walker’s six homers this season were struck against RH pitchers. Walker hasn’t faced many lefties, but he’s hit only .158 against them in 19 plate appearances.

Truth is, that doesn’t matter much because the Cardinals have taken 78 percent of their plate appearances against right-handed pitchers this season. It’s really important for Walker to do well against righties … and he’s kicking butt. During his current 12-game hitting streak, Walker has 15 hits in 35 at-bats (.429) with three doubles, four homers and a .524 slug vs. righthanders.

No question, Walker has improved in multiple areas after spending five weeks  at Triple A to regroup.

Let’s break it down, using the “before and after” numbers:

Ground-ball rate: 60.4 percent before Memphis and 56.8% after returning. But during his latest 12-game hitting streak, Walker’s ground-ball rate has been 51.5 percent. The progress is making a difference.

Plate discipline: before Memphis, Walker swung at 40 percent of pitches thrown out of the strike zone. Since returning, his chase rate is 31%.

Walks and strikeouts: before Memphis, Walker had a poor 3.8 percent walk rate with a rising 25.6% strikeout rate. After returning, Walker has a high walk rate (11.7%) and a low strikeout rate (13.3%.)

Sharpened contact skills: Before Memphis, Walker’s swinging strike rate was 16.4%. After his return, his swinging-strike rate is only 9%. Before Memphis, Walker connected on 84% of pitches in the strike zone. After Memphis, his contact rate on strikes is 94 percent.

Hitting the ball harder: By the time Walker headed to Memphis, his hard-hit rate had dropped to 47 percent overall but was only 35.7% after his first 12-game hitting streak ended. Since returning, Walker’s hard-hit rate is a smashing 61.4%. That’s been made possible by his booming average exit velocity of 97.2 mph since his promotion on June 2.

Walker clearly is improving in all areas of hitting, and his entertaining upturn happened quickly. Walker is correcting his the most glaring flaws, is more patient at the plate, and his contact skills and plate discipline have made him formidable.

And though Walker’s ground-ball rate is still on the high side, his brawny strength has produced a .333 batting average on ground balls since his return to the St. Louis lineup. That will work.

Among Cardinals that have a minimum 50 plate appearances in June, Jordan leads the team in batting average (.327) and onbase percentage (.481) and is second to Nolan Arenado in slugging (.727), homers (4) and OPS (1.229).

I suppose we can call it a breakout.

Manager Oli Marmol was wise to move Walker into the No. 5 lineup spot.

As for Walker’s raw defense … it will take time.

Offensively the challenges will continue for Walker as pitchers try to adjust and identify weaknesses. Slumps are inevitable. But Walker is fulfilling his promise at an early age, turning into the kind of hitter that gives fans a reason to smile during a season of frowns.

I’ll be back with a Redbird Review a little later today.

Thanks for reading …

–Bernie

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 590thefan.com 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 my baseball columns are sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, Baseball Savant, Sports Info Solutions, Fielding Bible and Baseball Prospectus.

 

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.