It had already been a special week for Orion Kerkering, after he was selected as the Phillies' 2023 recipient of the Paul Owens Award as their top minor league pitcher. Now, the week has become even more special.
As reported by Matt Gleb of The Athletic, Kerkering has earned his first promotion to the Majors. Due to him not being on the Phillies' 40-man roster, a corresponding move was necessary to open up a spot for Kerkering, with the club later announcing that infielder Drew Ellis was designated for assignment and Yunior Marté was optioned.
The young pitcher's ascent through the minor league system this season has been nothing short of remarkable. Ranked 21st among Phillies prospects during pre-season by MLB.com, he has since risen to number seven.
Lights-out at every level
Kerkering has made nine appearances in Low-A, 18 in High-A, 21 at Double-A and one in Triple-A Lehigh Valley during this year. Combined at all levels, he has produced a 1.51 ERA and 0.894 WHIP across 53.2 innings.
In addition, the 22-year-old has 79 strikeouts, allowed 12 walks and given up four home runs and a .186 batting average. He was only promoted to Triple-A on Monday.
Drafted in the fifth round just last year out of University of South Florida, no one would have anticipated Kerkering arriving so quickly in the Majors. Previous projections had him being ready for the Phillies in 2025.
The right-handed pitcher's main weapons in his arsenal are his fastball and slider. His heater is capable of reaching 100 mph, while his slider is arguably the best in the Phillies' system.
Speaking after Kerkering was named Phillies top minor league pitcher of the year, director of player development Preston Mattingly is well aware of the talent at their disposal. As per gousfbulls.com, Mattingly said:
"Orion's performance speaks for itself, but this award was won in the offseason with hard work. Orion committed to improving all aspects of his game and it led to success and stops at all four affiliates. We are proud of the leader he has become and look forward to the bright future ahead."
Now Kerkering's hard work and commitment will offer him the chance to show what he can do in the Bigs. It will be interesting to see what role he has out of the bullpen for the Phillies, with him often closing out games throughout this season in the minors.