St. Louis Cardinals: Top five standouts so far this season

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3) Carlos Villanueva key to Cards’ bullpen

A veteran journeyman, Carlos Villanueva is perhaps the unlikeliest name on the Cardinals’ roster one would think would make a significant impact for the club this year. That being said, you could easily make the case that the right-hander is the best reliever in Mike Matheny’s bullpen – and it wouldn’t be a stretch to suggest so.

In 10 outings spanning 18 innings of work, Villanueva boasts a 0.50 ERA and a 0.944 WHIP as a relief man for the Cardinals. He’s been the recipient of some top-notch glove-work behind him, as his FIP (3.59) is significantly worse than his earned run average.

As I broke down in a piece earlier this month, the veteran, who spent the past few seasons with the rival Chicago Cubs, has been notably better as a reliever than as a starting pitcher – something the Cardinals seem all-too-well aware of.

It’s more than unlikely – almost guaranteed, really – that Villanueva takes a step backward to some degree in the weeks to come. That being said, even with a slightly-less-impressive resume, he’s still an effective option for a St. Louis staff that’s thin early this season.

Next: 2) A man who knows his way around the wood