Photo: Jordan Walker (Palm Beach Cardinals)
It is again time to select The Cardinal Nation’s Player of the Month. This covers play during June across the St. Louis Cardinals’ four full-season minor league affiliates.
While the Cardinals system is struggling on the mound, the offenses are performing much better. This is emphasized by the fact that eight players finished the month with an OPS over .900.
While there were plenty of impressive performances, Jordan Walker demonstrated a strong ability to hit the ball and hit for power, leading him to be our choice as the Player of the Month for June.
This article will describe the impressive performance of Walker this month, and it will also note other standouts at the plate.
Please remember, this is NOT the “Player of the Month Among Top Prospects”. Every player in the system has an equal chance, with only their performance during the month used to differentiate the best of the best. Age and level, which are key prospect considerations, are not factors here, either.
To qualify, a player must have had at least 60 plate appearances in June. That narrowed our population from the 82 players who stepped up to the plate during June (including pitchers) down to 37.
To make the list of eight finalists, an OPS over .900 was required. This eliminated five players with OPSes between .850 and .900. This is a high benchmark, and it is a sign of the strong production at the plate of the Cardinals system as a whole.
We will take two views of the data. The first look will be at counting stats, followed by rate stats. Names are listed in the same sequence in both tables, in descending OPS order.
Counting Stats – finalists
|Jordan Walker||19||A, A+||15||70||59||12||23||7||0||4||13||1||0||8||11|
|Brendan Donovan*||24||A+, AA||26||113||94||20||30||6||0||4||17||6||2||16||15|
|Nolan Gorman*||21||AA, AAA||23||110||102||13||30||3||0||8||18||2||0||8||30|
Every full-season Cardinals affiliate is represented on this list, although Memphis is only represented through Nolan Gorman who was promoted to Triple-A at the end of the month. The Cardinals also have three first round picks on this list – Jordan Walker (2020), Delvin Perez (2016), and Nolan Gorman (2018).
Jordan Walker had the fewest plate appearances of any finalist. However, he had the third most extra base hits, finishing one behind Leandro Cedeno and Brandy Whalen. He also tallied nearly as many strikeouts as walks. The 19-year-old was the youngest finalist in terms of age and professional experience as this is just his first professional season.
Delvin Perez led the organization in hits this month with a whopping 35, while TCN’s top ranked prospect, Nolan Gorman, led the organization with eight home runs. Tommy Jew finished with the most RBI (22) of any player in the Cardinals system, with non-finalists Masyn Winn and Kramer Robertson behind him with 20.
Two players – Brendan Donovan and Matt Koperniak – finished the month with more walks than strikeouts.
Also of note is that three finalists – Jordan Walker, Brendan Donovan, and Nolan Gorman – earned promotions during their strong months. Walker and Gorman were promoted at the end of the month, while Donovan was promoted at the beginning of the month, meaning that most of his production came against Double-A competition.
Rate Stats – finalists
Walker led the organization in batting average, slugging, and OPS, while he finished second in OBP, just behind Matt Koperniak. Walker’s OPS was over 150 points higher than the next closest contender, giving him the title of Player of the Month despite having the fewest plate appearances of any finalist.
The main competitor to Walker was Leandro Cedeno, who finished second in average, slugging, and OPS, and fourth in OBP.
It is a testament to Koperniak’s plate discipline that he finished first in OBP despite finishing fourth in average. The former undrafted free agent broke out this month after struggling through the month of May.
Springfield’s Delvin Perez led the finalists in ground ball double plays, which is perhaps a testament to his high ground ball tendency. Although, he still added some power with nine extra base hits and three home runs.
The Player of the Month
Jordan Walker earned a promotion to A-Advanced Peoria on June 28 due to his strong start to his professional career. Walker missed the beginning of the month with an injury that did not allow him to begin playing this month until June 12. The slugger showed no signs of rust upon being activated as he tallied two hits in his first game back.
It is impressive that Walker has been able to have this kind of production to begin his career, especially since he was selected out of high school. High schoolers can sometimes take longer to have success in their careers due to the large step up in competition. However, Walker clearly had no issues facing better pitching and now will get to make the step up to Peoria.
Walker settled into the three-hole in Palm Beach manager Jose Leon’s lineups and has batted second in each of his first three games in Peoria.
The 19-year-old debuted as TCN’s 6th ranked prospect in the offseason after being selected 21st overall in the 2020 MLB draft. He was moved up to fourth in the May re-ranking, and he has certainly justified his high ranking.
It is Walker’s power that is his highest graded tool. He demonstrated that with a slugging percentage of .712 this month. Walker has also recorded an in-game exit velocity of 116.3 mph. According to Statcast, only ten players in Major League Baseball have hit a ball harder than that in 2021.
The right-handed hitter has only played third base in his professional career. It is possible that the 6’5”, 220-pound Walker will need to move to first base as he gets older, but his bat should give him the ability to provide production from either corner spot. Walker made six errors in 22 games at the hot corner with Palm Beach.
Congratulations to The Cardinal Nation’s June Player of the Month, Jordan Walker.
Other stat leaders of note
Leading the system in walks during June was Springfield catcher Ivan Herrera. The backstop took 19 free passes, although he struggled overall, slashing .185/.350/.259/.609. Kramer Robertson came in second with 18 walks.
Palm Beach first baseman Todd Lott finished the month tied with Leandro Cedeno for the most doubles with 8. Each player also hit three home runs. This is a strong sign of power to come as each player continues to mature.
How last month’s winner fared this month
In May, Alec Burleson received a promotion to Double-A Springfield after his hot start and proceeded to post a 1.047 OPS in his first 11 games at the level.
The 22-year-old cooled off this month, slashing .266/.310/.385/.696. He struck out 32 times in 116 plate appearances.
Burleson did have the second most hits for Springfield in June with 29, six behind Delvin Perez. Of those 29 hits, four went for doubles, while three landed over the fence. The outfielder has consistently batted in the heart of the order for manager Jose Leger’s team.
As the first player from his 2020 draft class to reach Double-A, Burleson has moved quickly. His production may have dropped from last month, but he is still a talented hitter who just needs to adjust the more advanced pitching that he is now facing.
The Cardinals organization made their corresponding announcement on Saturday, July 3.
Our Minor League Player of the Month is 3B @jwalker0522 👏
Walker, who advanced to Peoria (A+) earlier this week, hit .407 with 4 HR, 11 doubles, 13 RBI and 12 runs scored in 14 June games with Palm Beach (A) and earned Player of the Week honors for the week of June 14. pic.twitter.com/oziXoagg3F
— Cardinals Player Development (@CardsPlayerDev) July 3, 2021
What is next
The Cardinals organization should announce its corresponding June Pitcher and Player of the Month winners this week, as well.
To track the status of the Cardinals’ 40-man roster as well as all players in the system by position and level, check out the Roster Matrix, always free and updated here at The Cardinal Nation. Also included is every player transaction across the full organization all year long.
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