There has been much talk surrounding the top three Philadelphia Phillies pitching prospects in the past year. The names Andrew Painter, Mick Abel, and Griff McGarry have all become familiar to Phillies fans as they have risen through the farm system.
The Phillies organization has done a good job of drafting and developing pitching prospects of late. There are other players who are not as well-known that have the potential to be impactful players on the big-league club down the road.
One of those players is right-handed relief prospect Orion Kerkering. Kerkering has been absolutely dominant to begin the 2023 season at Single-A Clearwater. He was drafted by the Phillies in the fifth round of the 2022 draft out of South Florida. While he is still undeveloped it is clear why the Phillies drafted him.
In his last season at South Florida Kerkering posted a 5.72 ERA in 67 2/3 innings pitched. Not impressive right? What is impressive, however, is that he struck out 91 batters over that span. He ranked third in the AAC in total strike outs in 2022.
His introduction to professional baseball in 2022 was somewhat pedestrian. He pitched a total of seven innings and posted a 3.86 ERA with seven strike outs and one walk. While the stats were not necessarily jaw-dropping, the stuff was there.
Kerkering entered 2023 a bit more polished. Pitching in Clearwater mainly as the team's closer, Kerkering has yet to allow an earned run in 10 1/3 innings pitched. The 22-year-old has struck out 18 batters in those innings and has walked just one. He is sporting a 0.29 WHIP and opposing hitters are batting just 0.61 against him this season. He also has a K/9 rate of 15.68 to start the year. To put that in perspective, José Alvarado, has a K/9 rate of 16.20 to start 2023 and he has been one of the most dominant relievers in baseball.
Kerkering's best pitches are his fastball and slider. He also throws an average changeup. His fastball typically sits in the mid-90s, but his slider is his most domineering pitch. Both pitches are rated by scouts as above average.
Below are a few videos of Kerkering in action for your viewing pleasure:
The evidence is there; the breaking ball is just nasty. At 22-years old, it would not be surprising to see Kerkering receive a promotion to High-A Jersey Shore, or maybe even Double-A Reading by season's end, if he continues his dominance in Clearwater. Regardless of where Kerkering is pitching, he is a noteworthy name for Phillies fans to learn and become acquainted with as he impresses early in the season.