Phillies 2023 report cards: Grading the bullpen

For what has been a rocky unit for most of the last decade, the 2023 Phillies flipped the script and had one of the best arm barns in the league.
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Orion Kerkering

The Wonderboy. Orion Kerkering arrived late into the 2023 season but gave everyone a glimpse of the incredible things he is capable of.

While only tallying three regular-season innings, he impressed enough to earn a spot on the postseason roster and was even used in high-leverage situations in the playoffs. While not always performing the best, it was clear the struggles came from being young and inexperienced, not because he's a bad pitcher.

Only pitching three innings didn't qualify him for any stat ranking, but the 2022 fifth-round pick would have ranked above the 90th percentile in every category on Baseball Savant other than walk rate, average exit velocity, and chase rate.

Kerkering's slider ranked as one of the best overall pitches in the sport in 2023. He can throw it in any count, at any time, and for a strike almost whenever he wants which is something that is unheard of in the modern MLB. Oh yeah, he also has a 100-plus mph sinker that runs the complete opposite direction.

The biggest question mark for Kerkering will be if he can learn to utilize his fastball better and locate it to the point that he can throw the slider off of it and disrupt the timing of the hitter. Kerkering will also most likely open up 2024 with another pitch option as Caleb Cotham loves to adjust pitch repetoires.

The 22-year-old will be a staple in red pinstripes for years to come. Look for a jump in development and more innings for him in 2024.

Grade: B+

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