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Cardinals reportedly set to bring top prospect Jordan Walker back from Triple-A

The consensus top-five prospect, sent down in late April after slumping to start his MLB career, has posted a .746 OPS in Memphis.

Jordan Walker of the St. Louis Cardinals acknowledges the crowd after hitting his first MLB career home run in a game against the Atlanta Braves at Busch Stadium on April 5, 2023 in St Louis, Missouri. Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Jordan Walker’s first go-round in the Majors didn’t go quite as well as expected, but with the scuffling St. Louis Cardinals still looking for answers — especially in their injury-depleted outfield — the team is giving baseball’s top prospect a second crack at it. Reports surfaced on Thursday night that Walker is set to be recalled from Triple-A Memphis ahead of the team’s game on Friday at the Pittsburgh Pirates:

The sky seemed to be the limit for Walker this spring, as the former first-round pick lit up Cardinals camp with power and speed that baseball has rarely seen before — it’s not too often you see a guy flying around the bases while built like a linebacker. When the then-20-year-old made the Opening Day roster (and tallied a hit in each of his first 12 Major League games), it felt like the game’s next big thing had arrived.

Still, Walker’s obvious physical tools had masked some holes in his game; he struck out 15 times to just two walks in spring training, with that aggressive approach leading to a lot of ground balls. And sure enough, after his torrid start, MLB pitchers began to adjust, and Walker began to slump. He slashed just .214/.267/.238 over a two-week stretch in mid-April, and with an outfield logjam — Tyler O’Neill, Dylan Carlson, Lars Nootbaar and Alec Burleson all demanded at-bats, with Nolan Gorman crushing the ball as the DH — the Cardinals decided to send him down to Triple-A to ensure he kept getting regular playing time.

Walker’s performance since the demotion has been ... a bit of a mixed bag. He struggled at first, somewhat understandably shaken by his struggles in the Majors and a mandate from the team to hit the ball in the air more. He hit just .154 over his first 14 games in Memphis, with a whopping 15 strikeouts to just two extra-base hits. But around the middle of May, something clicked:

Walker homered again on Wednesday night, his third in the last 15 games. And while the strikeouts remain a concern — he’s whiffed eight times in his last five contests — that Cardinals outfield that seemed so deep in April has been thinned considerably, with Carlson and O’Neill on the IL and Burleson in the midst of a prolonged slump.

So now St. Louis will give its future cornerstone another shot at sticking in the Majors for good. The questions about Walker’s approach remain, but his upside is also undeniable, and as the calendar flips to June a Cardinals team with such high hopes entering the year is desperate for anything that might give them a spark.