Cardinals Sleeper Prospect Steals the Show at World Baseball Classic
There are 17 players from the St. Louis Cardinals organization who are representing various countries at the 2023 version of the World Baseball Classic, and a name that most people have not heard of stole the show on the opening round of Pool C.
Guillermo Zuniga is now with his third organization after spending time in the Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers organizations. At every level from 2019-2022, he has notched at least 10 strikeouts per nine innings pitched.
On Saturday afternoon in Arizona, baseball fans in Colombia have a new favorite player. On the biggest international stage, Zuniga got the call in the ninth inning of a tie game against Team Mexico.
He recorded a strikeout and a groundout before allowing a double to Austin Barnes. They intentionally walked former Cardinals outfielder Randy Arozarena before striking out Alex Verdugo in a massive moment at Chase Field.
Colombia was able to take the lead in the top of the 10th with two outs in the top of the 10th on a fielding error by Luis Urias, setting up an epic inning of extra innings baseball.
Zuniga constantly showcased his 100+ mph fastball, exceeding the century mark on almost every pitch he threw. Cardinals fans are well used to fireball right-handers after watching Jordan Hicks, and Ryan Helsley do it for years.
In the bottom of the 10th, Zuniga netted a strikeout to the leadoff man before getting Rowdy Tellez to fly out to left field. Team Mexico stole third base, ensuring that any wild pitch or passed ball would tie the game.
This set up an epic showdown with Tampa Bay Rays infielder Isaac Paredes. With a stadium full of Mexican supporters, Zuniga got a generous call from the home plate umpire to record his fourth strikeout of the night.
There were many Cardinals players who had a lot to gain from a dominant World Baseball Classic but make no mistake. When Zuniga gets back to the Cardinals' camp, he should be given every opportunity to make the opening-day roster.
He made some of the best players in the league look silly with his fastball that topped 100 mph and a wipeout slider that buckled the legs of hitters. His dynamic pitching could be exactly what the Cardinals' bullpen needs for the 2023 season.