USF Baseball: Former Bull Orion Kerkering named Philadelphia Phillies’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year

Kerkering pitched at South Florida from 2020-22 and was drafted by the Phillies in the fifth round. 

TAMPA (September 22, 2023) – Former University of South Florida Bull Orion Kerkering has been named the Philadelphia Phillies Minor League Pitcher of the Year, the organization announced on Thursday. Kerkering is the recipient of the 2023 Paul Owens Award, presented annually to the Phillies’ top minor league pitcher.

The Venice, Florida native pitched at South Florida from 2020-22 and was drafted by the Phillies in the fifth round of the 2022 MLB Draft. Kerkering spent his first two seasons at USF in the bullpen before splitting time in 2022 between the starting rotation and closer role. His wipe-out slider and power arm paid huge dividends for the Bulls in 2021 as the team won the American Athletic Conference Tournament, the Gainesville Regional and advanced to the program’s first-ever NCAA Super Regional.

The 22-year-old began the 2023 season at Low-A Clearwater before earning promotions to High-A Jersey Shore, Double-A Reading and most recently Triple-A Lehigh Valley on September 18th.

Kerkering has logged 49 relief appearances across those stops this season with a 4-1 record, 14 saves, a 1.51 ERA (9 ER/53.2 IP) and a 0.89 WHIP. He has struck out 79 batters and issued just 12 walks while holding opposing hitters to a .186 batting average (36-for-194).

Kerkering, who was promoted to Triple-A on Monday and earned the win on Wednesday in his first appearance, is striking out 13.25 batters per 9.0 innings pitched and has a 38.0 percent strikeout rate compared to a 5.8 percent walk rate. Among minor league pitchers who have thrown at least 50.0 innings, he has allowed the fewest number of runs (9), ranks fourth in ERA and is tied for fourth in WHIP. After being promoted to Double-A on July 6, Kerkering was tied for first in the Eastern League in saves with seven. The Phillies Minor League Pitcher of the Month in April, Kerkering struck out a career-high five batters on Sept. 13 at Binghamton. Overall, 43 of his 49 outings have been scoreless and he has not allowed a run in his last nine appearances. Kerkering is ranked as the No. 7 prospect in the Phillies organization by

“Orion’s performance speaks for itself, but this award was won in the offseason with hard work,” said Preston Mattingly, Phillies director of player development. “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.”

About USF Baseball

The USF Baseball program played its first season in 1966 and is entering its 59th season in 2024 under head coach Billy Mohl (seventh season). The Bulls have made 14 NCAA Tournament appearances, including four since 2015, and earned their first-ever Super Regional berth in 2021. USF was ranked in the Top 25 by five different publications in the final 2021 polls, checking in as high as No. 16. The Bulls have won five conference tournament titles (3 Sun Belt, 1 Metro and 1 American) and six regular season championships (3 Sun Belt, 2 Metro and 1 C-USA). USF baseball players have been recognized with All-America honors 12 times, most recently with third baseman David Villar in 2018, and 19 have earned Freshman All-America accolades, most recently Eric Snow in 2023. Four Bulls were selected in the 2022 MLB Draft. Former 2018 first-round selection, Shane McClanahan, became the program’s first-ever MLB All-Star in 2022 and was the starting pitcher for the American League.