SCOTTSDALE – Jordan Walker is tough to miss. He towers over his teammates, and his goatee is as impressive as his size.
The 6-foot-5, 220-pound giant looks like he is already 30 with a decade of major league experience.
However, Walker just turned 20 in May and is still considered a prospect, albeit one who is ranked No. 6 overall in Major League Baseball’s prospect rankings. This fall, the third-baseman/outfielder has been turning heads in the Arizona Fall League.
“There’s some of the best talents in professional baseball out here in the Fall League,” said Walker, a St. Louis Cardinals prospect. “It’s been really fun just getting to know the guys on my team and the guys I’m playing against.”
Hailing from Atlanta, Walker has loved baseball for as long as he can remember thanks to his dad and grandfather, who were his first coaches when he started to play the game. Walker would sleep with his bat and glove when he was a kid, solidifying his love for the sport.
Walker’s first year at Decatur High School in Georgia was also the first season for coach Robby Gilbert. Gilbert immediately put Walker on the varsity squad, though he didn’t get much playing time until his sophomore year.
“I had people tell me that I should be fired for not playing Jordan more his freshman year,” Gilbert said. “I just wanted to be careful because of how young he was, but by his second year we knew what we had.”
By the time Walker reached his junior year, he had grown over 6 feet and had added some weight and muscle mass. From there, both he and Gilbert knew Walker could get drafted and thrive at the professional level.
But there was more to the rising high school star than his physical talent. His work ethic and ability to remain humble stood out, despite all the praise and accolades he received.
“He’s always been that kid that people gravitate to,” Gilbert said. “When every college in the nation wants you yet you still come to every practice and game, and help the younger kids in our program get better, it means something. You couldn’t ask anything else as a coach.”
As a junior, Walker put up what Gilbert called “video-game numbers,” and as a senior he posted an astonishing 1.555 OPS in 16 games before the rest of the season was canceled because of the COVID pandemic. Walker committed to Duke to play college baseball, but when the Cardinals selected him with the 21st overall pick in the 2020 MLB draft, he chose to turn professional.
Masyn Winn also decided to turn professional out of high school. A shortstop in the Cardinals’ system, the Texas native is 7 inches shorter than Walker and was drafted only one round behind Walker. The two have become fast friends.
“Moving through the Cardinals system with Jordan has been fantastic,” Winn said. “Watching him grow as a player and a person is unbelievable, it’s inhuman. There is never a moment too big for him.”
For their pregame routine, Walker and Winn created a card game called “Presidents,” which Winn describes as an “advanced Go Fish” that can be played with four to six people. The two have been playing cards before every baseball game they’ve played with each other and are eager to teach it to other players around the Fall League.
Ever since the Cardinals drafted him, Walker has flown through the minor leagues. He went from the Low-A league to Double-A in 2021 and thrived in 119 games this season at the Double-A level, posting a .306 batting average in 536 plate appearances along with a .388 on-base percentage.
In 16 Fall League games, Walker has continued to show he can be a major league player by the 2023 season, posting a .288 batting average complemented by five home runs. Walker, who until the Fall League had only played third base, has also experimented with playing the outfield for the first time.
“There’s no word to describe it other than fun,” Walker said. “I’ve enjoyed my time out there just learning all three positions in the outfield, and getting to show my arm off once in a while.”
Walker is expected to be in the big leagues as soon as next season, according to the MLB Top 100 Prospect Rankings, and was described as having hitting skills that can make him an All-Star caliber hitter in the future.
Whether it’s on or off the baseball diamond, there is always one thing that Walker will always be doing, and that’s having fun.
“If you don’t like Jordan Walker, there might be something wrong with you, not him,” Gilbert said. “He’s such a great man, and he has a very bright future ahead of him.”