Post Content Cardinals News 

March 8th, 2023

TAMPA, Fla. — Yankees ace Gerrit Cole, a five-time All-Star, a top-five AL Cy Young finisher five times and MLB’s strikeout leader in 2022, fanned seven of the 12 Cardinals batters he faced in Wednesday’s Spring Training game.

More impressive than his own nearly flawless outing, Cole stressed, was the advanced plate discipline and balanced swing that top Cardinals prospect Jordan Walker showed in their two battles on the day.

Walker — the No. 4-ranked prospect in baseball, per MLB Pipeline — laced a 95.6 mph four-seam fastball from Cole into left field for a single to open the fourth inning of the Cardinals’ 4-0 victory over the Yankees. The ball left Walker’s bat at 102.7 mph, per Statcast, but the most impressive part of the day was how the 20-year-old Walker adjusted from his first at-bat to the second.

The fireballing Cole beat Walker on the inside in the first inning, getting the rookie outfielder to ground weakly to third base. Three innings later, Walker proved himself up for that challenge and sent the baseball out faster than it came in. That caught the attention of Cole, who is regarded throughout baseball as one of the game’s best power pitchers.

“I thought he put a good swing on it,” said Cole, who admitted he had no idea of Walker’s stature as a top prospect before facing him. “Good adjustment from the first at-bat. I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but I had no idea who he was.

“It was a good swing and it was a good pitch [because] it was a borderline ball, I think,” Cole continued. “I threw him three [fastballs] in the first at-bat, and the third one really got in on him. He came out really ready to protect that part of the zone [in the second at-bat], and he put a good swing on it. One of the better swings of the day, for sure.”

Walker, who is hoping to play well enough this spring to make the jump from Double-A to the big leagues with the Cardinals, made another strong case for himself on Wednesday. In addition to his hot smash for a single off Cole, Walker fought off a 92.4 mph fastball on the inner half of the plate from Aaron McGarity and dumped the ball into right-center for the Cardinals’ first run.

The two-hit day — Walker’s fourth multi-hit game of Spring Training — left him 12-for-28 (.429) in nine games. He also has three home runs, three doubles and seven RBIs. Additionally, he stole his first base by flashing a top speed of 28.3 feet per second while going from first to second in 4.58 seconds. To put that into perspective, speedy Cardinals shortstop Masyn Winn had a top speed of 28.7 feet per second and he went from first to second in 4.32 seconds.

“Stepping into the box you could tell he was comfortable, and he continues to take a good at-bat regardless of who it was [pitching],” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol raved. “[Cole] is a really good pitcher with really good stuff; that’s pretty obvious, but [Walker] didn’t make it any bigger than it was. He just stayed within himself and put a really good swing on it.”

A top prospect that is still trying to find his footing at the MLB level, Walker said he was happiest about the glowing praise that an elite pitcher such as Cole had for his plate approach on Wednesday.

“It means a lot. Hell of a pitcher,” Walker said of Cole. “He’s really good and his stuff looked electric. His fastball was jumping, and his slider looked good. It means a lot to hear that from him. Definitely, every at-bat was a battle, for sure. Wonderful pitcher, that’s all I can say about him, and it was definitely a tough AB, for sure.”