For all their success in trades, the strength of a Mozeliak-Girsch operation has historically been their farm system. The core of what we think of as the Cardinals — Tommy Edman, Nolan Gorman, Dylan Carlson, Lars Nootbar, Tyler O’Neill, Brendan Donovan, Jack Flaherty, Ryan Helsley, Genesis Cabrera, and Jordan Hicks — has consistently come from the farm.
This season, the farm proudly offered up infielder-outfielder Jordan Walker, of whom it was said that the only problem would be finding a place for him to play in the talent-laden Cardinal scheme.
In the real world of the big leagues, Walker has labored to hold his spot. Offense has not been the problem; he’s batting .306. But Walker, a natural third baseman, has been consigned to left field because that’s where guys with no position go.
He’s been awful at it, with just a .957 fielding percentage and a negative Defensive Runs Saved. Those fielding issues are the principal reason why, despite the .300 batting average, he languishes with a -0.8 WAA.
The Cardinals have tried to remedy that concern by using Walker more as a DH and a giving fellow rookie Alec Burleson time in left. But Burleson is batting just .218, and he too has run up a negative WAA.
Matthew Liberatore is a first-year pitcher who’s been given a half-dozen starts in the hope that he could stabilize the obvious team weakness, the rotation. He’s carrying a 5.60 ERA in 27 innings, figures that again work out to a negative WAA.
In point of fact, the two words that go with each of the five farm system products the Cardinals have used this season are “negative WAA.” As a group, the damage totals to -2.7, which even by rookie standards is bleak.