3 Phillies to watch in spring training as they fix weaknesses and elevate their game

Spring training may not always be the best indicator of how a player's season will pan out, but there are some Phillies to watch to see if they can improve on skills that will directly impact their season.

Philadelphia Phillies rookie reliever is one of the players to watch this spring training to see if he can improve for 2024
Philadelphia Phillies rookie reliever is one of the players to watch this spring training to see if he can improve for 2024 / Tim Nwachukwu/GettyImages
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Watch for Orion Kerkering to learn to use his fastball more effectively

One of the surprising stories of the 2023 season, Orion Kerkering exploded through the Phillies minor league system after being drafted in the fifth round of the 2022 MLB Draft. His calling card — the wipeout sweeper that can be used at any time, in any count, in any location — was a big pitch for him.

In his three outings during the 2023 regular season, the 22-year-old threw 60 pitches, 51 of them being the sweeper. He found success in the regular season as that pitch was so good that even if batters knew it was coming, they still couldn't hit it. When the postseason came, however, it was a different story.

The lack of an effective fastball hurt Kerkering, leading to a few bad outings against the Diamondbacks in the NLCS. A reliever can be successful with one great pitch, but there needs to be something else that sets it up or gives a different look.

The former USF pitcher sits consistently around 98 mph with his sinker, and his sweeper registers as one of the pitches with the most movement in all of baseball. The sinker can be used as a setup pitch to the wipeout sweeper or even as a finisher, changing speeds and catching guessing hitters off balance.

It will be important for Kerkering to get the fastball to a level where he is comfortable throwing it more than 15 percent of the time to help open up his sweeper and keep hitters off of it.

While he hasn't secured his spot on the roster just yet, spring training is a great time to incorporate the sinker and see when and where he can throw it to go from an above-average pitcher to the potential Phillies closer for 2024.

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