The St. Louis Cardinals bullpen already includes two flamethrowers in Jordan Hicks and Ryan Helsley, and another powerful arm just joined the fracas. Right-hander Guillermo Zuñiga, a standout in the 2023 World Baseball Classic, is up with the Cardinals as St. Louis looks to get back on track in the NL Central. Here’s a closer look at the hard-throwing Zuñiga.
A Look at Zuñiga
24-year-old Guillermo Zuñiga is up at the MLB level for the first time, in what’s been a rather uneven road for the right-hander. Zuñiga pitched two years (2016-17) in the Braves organization, before joining the Dodgers system for the 2018 season.
The right-hander spent the next four years in the Dodgers organization and put up solid numbers in the Minors. In the 2021 campaign, Zuñiga struck out 49 over 35.1 IP in Tulsa (AAA) and recorded a solid 3.06 ERA. Zuñiga did run into some command problems last season, as his BB/9 jumped to 4.9, while his strikeouts numbers dipped as well.
Zuñiga joined the Cardinals organization this past winter, a move that made St. Louis look awfully smart in March. With Team Columbia in the 2023 World Baseball Classic, Zuñiga struck out six over three innings and proved to be a key difference in the country’s win over Mexico. During the WBC, Zuñiga showcased an overpowering fastball that sat in the triple digits along with a wipeout slider that’s he’s not afraid to use on either side of the plate.
Zuñiga made his MLB debut on May 2 against the Los Angeles Angels. The 24-year-old threw a scoreless frame and struck out two in the ninth inning of that contest. The St. Louis reliever only elicited one whiff, which came on an 88 MPH slider that finished off Mike Trout. In addition to that slider, Zuñiga’s fastball sat in the 99-100 MPH range.
A Look at the Cardinals
It’s not hard to excited about an arm like Zuñiga. The 24-year-old looked like a dominant reliever in the World Baseball Classic, but time will tell whether his stuff and command will translate to success at the MLB level. So far, however, Zuñiga looks like a promising piece for the Cardinals.
What is clear, however, is that the Cardinals could use a bit of a shakeup. St. Louis lost 19 of the team’s first 29 games of the season, and dropped yet another on May 2 against the Angels. The Cardinals sit in last place in the NL Central, which seemed unthinkable at the start of the season. The primary culprit has been the rotation, as Steven Matz, Miles Mikolas, and Jake Woodford, the latter of whom is in the rotation for an injured Adam Wainwright, have all struggled considerably.