This St. Louis Cardinals pitcher could be a surprising weapon this season

Cincinnati Reds v St. Louis Cardinals
Cincinnati Reds v St. Louis Cardinals / Joe Puetz/GettyImages

St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Drew VerHagen could be a prime rebound candidate.

St. Louis Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol has spoken highly of right-handed pitcher Drew VerHagen this spring. In an interview on MLB Network Radio, Marmol mentioned VerHagen several times and said that he could be impactful coming out of the bullpen now that he's fully healthy.

VerHagen injured his hip in July of 2022 and later underwent surgery, missing the rest of the season. When he pitched, the results weren't pretty: He logged an ERA of 6.65 and a 1.89 WHIP in 21.2 innings. Nevertheless, Statcast is a fan of his fastball, which registered a spin rate in the 81st percentile last season. Marmol believes that a fully healthy VerHagen can utilize that and elicit swings and misses.

Marmol's praise of VerHagen is noteworthy because he had similar thoughts on Ryan Helsley before last season, saying he could close for any team. Another pitcher who found new results when an injury no longer dogged him, Helsley transformed into one of the league's best relief pitchers in 2022. While VerHagen is not a flamethrower in the mold of Helsley and likely doesn't have near the ceiling of Helsley, he could find a bigger role this season than fans expect.

Something else worth mentioning is VerHagen's success in Japan before he returned stateside to pitch for St. Louis. In two seasons for the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, VerHagen had a 3.51 ERA and 215 strikeouts in 207.2 innings. The Cardinals' biggest success story as a reclamation project from Japan in recent years is Miles Mikolas, whose results they have tried to replicate with players coming back from Asia such as Aaron Brooks and Brandon Dickson, with little success.

If VerHagen's gains in Japan can translate to the major leagues now that his hip injury is no longer an issue, a higher-leverage role in the bullpen isn't out of the question. In a St. Louis Post-Dispatch article, VerHagen said he would like to start and believes he can, but with the rotation seemingly set, he'll likely have to wait for an injury or ineffectiveness from another starter before he receives a chance.

While Lars Nootbaar is the Cardinal receiving all the attention and hype over his advanced metrics, VerHagen shouldn't be overlooked. His spin data, success in Japan, and return to health could portend a bounce-back season.

Next. Predicting which Cardinals' prospects debut in 2023. dark