Zack Thompson, LHP
Best-case scenario: Top lefty reliever
Zack Thompson had an outstanding spring and looks ready to handle high-leverage spots out of the bullpen. His curveball can be a lethal offering, one of the best pitches any Cardinal throws. Thompson could anchor the left side of the bullpen, and while the lefty specialist is gone, Thompson was almost as effective against right-handers last year as he was against southpaws.
Worst-case scenario: Can’t be trusted in important situations and gets demoted
If Thompson has a setback and can’t bring his spring success to the games that matter, the Cardinals will have a gaping hole in the left side of the bullpen, likely forcing the team to find a solution at the trade deadline. His stats showed a bit of luck on his side last year, with a 3.89 FIP compared with a 2.08 ERA, so more adjustments could be necessary than what appears at first glance.
Drew VerHagen, RHP
Best-case scenario: Brings Japanese success to the Cardinals
Drew VerHagen pitched well in his two seasons in Japan, with a 3.49 ERA, and while he went down early last season after a poor start, he had a strong spring this year and, in an extended look, could prove that he found something effective overseas and be a successful reclamation project from Japan in the vein of Miles Mikolas.
Worst-case scenario: Can’t adapt to major leagues
VerHagen had a promising spring in 2022, but he was unable to translate it to the regular season, pitching to a 6.65 ERA in 21.2 innings. If he again proves that he isn’t able to consistently retire major league-caliber batters, he probably isn’t long for the roster.
Adam Wainwright, SP
Best-case scenario: Decent fifth starter
If Adam Wainwright returns from his groin strain and his velocity returns to levels near last year’s after he’s had a month to reset, his final year could be a moderately successful one assuming injuries don’t persist. Even at age 41, Wainwright has a nearly unparalleled ability to go deep into games and could be a valuable innings eater every fifth day.
Worst-case scenario: Can’t consistently pitch every fifth day
While all Cardinals fans want Wainwright to ride off into the sunset after one more strong year, there is a chance his borderline Hall of Fame career ends with a whimper. If Wainwright’s velocity loss in Spring Training is permanent or injuries continue to nag at him, the Cardinals will have trouble getting the innings they need from starters, leading to an overworked bullpen.