The move caught a number of fans by surprise because Walker started the season with a 12-game hitting streak, tying a 1912 record for longest hitting streak to begin an MLB career. But in the latter half of his hitting streak and the five games after, he hit just .182, prompting the Cardinals to remove him from the lineup to work on his ground ball rate. Through his first 20 games in the majors (78 plate appearances), Walker hit .274/.321/.397.
Walker is only 21 and was drafted by the Cardinals in 2020. In just three years, he rocketed through St. Louis' system, topping out at Double-A in 2022 before the team promoted him to the majors at the end of spring training this year. He has never been to Triple-A, which is presumably why the Cardinals believe spending time there will be good for him.
Despite the slump, it seems a bit strange that the Cardinals, who have yet to win 10 games, are optioning their prized rookie to Triple-A. When they promoted him to the bigs, the intention was to play him a lot. It's a big jump from Double-A to the majors, but playing more is the only way Walker will get used to MLB pitching.
Still, the Cardinals are 9-16. They're last in the National League Central, one game behind the Cincinnati Reds and eight games behind the first-place Pittsburgh Pirates. It's early in the season, and there's still a lot of time — more than 130 games — for them to right the ship (and for the Pirates to remember they're the Pirates).
Is sending your vaunted rookie prospect to Triple-A because he hit the first slump of his month-old MLB career the way to start making up that eight-game deficit? Only time will tell.