Finally, there’s the late-season rookie sensation Orion Kerkering. After putting up stellar numbers across four minor league levels for the bulk of the 2023 season, Kerkering received the fortunate call-up in late September to join the big league club for the final few games of the season. He impressed so much despite just a three-game cameo appearance that he was included on the Phillies’ postseason roster.
From there, that was where his inexperience began to show on the biggest stage. At first, Kerkering further impressed during his appearances in the NL Wild Card Series against the Miami Marlins and the NLDS against the Atlanta Braves, putting up mainly zeroes across the board.
However, he ran into some trouble against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NLCS. In four appearances, Kerkering gave up six hits, two earned runs, two walks, and four strikeouts in just 2 1/3 innings of work for a 7.71 ERA and 3.43 WHIP. More importantly, he gave up the game-tying run in Game 3 of the NLCS that essentially turned the series around for the Diamondbacks.
Obviously, no one can fault Kerkering, as he was just a rookie put in an unexpected high-leverage situation. Perhaps a little more seasoning for him to handle stressful situations in the future could do him wonders in the long run.
At just a young age of 23 as of Opening Day in 2024, it wouldn’t do any harm for the Phillies to play it safe with Kerkering by giving him a little more growth and developmental time in the minors before promoting him once again to the majors. That would ensure he's as polished and dominant as possible before taking on a full-time, permanent role in the Phillies’ bullpen.
However, if he somehow advances his game enough to prove his doubters wrong out of Spring Training next year, we could see Kerkering as a permanent fixture on their roster sooner than we think.