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Kerkering, Rojas Named Owens Award Winners for 2023

September 21, 2023

JERSEY SHORE, NJ - 2023 BlueClaws pitcher and 2021-22 BlueClaws outfielder Johan Rojas were named winners of the 2023 Paul Owens Award, handed out each year to the Phillies top minor league pitcher and player.

JERSEY SHORE, NJ - 2023 BlueClaws pitcher and 2021-22 BlueClaws outfielder Johan Rojas were named winners of the 2023 Paul Owens Award, handed out each year to the Phillies top minor league pitcher and player.

Kerkering, began the year with Clearwater and joined the BlueClaws in May. He gave up four earned runs with 27 strikeouts in 20.1 innings with the BlueClaws, adding three saves. He was promoted to Double-A Reading in July.

Rojas hit .344 in 17 games with the BlueClaws in 2021, and returned to the Shore to open the 2022 season. That year, he hit .230 with three home runs and 33 stolen bases before a June promotion to Double-A Reading. Rojas made his big league debut this year with the Phillies, becoming the 120th player to go From the Shore, to the Show.

You can read the full release from the Phillies below.


Outfielder Johan Rojas and right-handed pitcher Orion Kerkering were selected as the recipients of the 2023 Paul Owens Award, presented annually to the Phillies’ top minor league player and pitcher.

Rojas posted a .306/.361/.484 (.845 OPS) slash line with 20 doubles, five triples, nine home runs, 45 RBI, 56 runs, 24 walks and 30 stolen bases in his 76 games with double-A Reading this season. The 23-year-old was promoted to the Phillies on July 14 and at the time of his promotion, he led the Eastern League in hits (98), triples and runs while also ranking tied for second in steals, third in extra-base hits and total bases (155) and sixth in average. Since making his major league debut on July 15, Rojas has slashed .301/.344/.439 (.783 OPS) with nine doubles, one triple, two home runs, 21 RBI, 19 runs and five walks in 52 games. Defensively, he has appeared in 50 games, making 33 starts, all of which have come in center field. The Dominican Republic native accumulated 14 defensive runs saved in his first 50 games, which was tied for the 14th most in the majors. He was named the SIS/Fielding Bible Awards Defensive Player of the month for August after leading all major leaguers with 11 defensive runs saved in the month. Coming into the season, Rojas was named the No. 5 prospect and the best defensive outfielder in the Phillies minor league system by Baseball America. He was signed as an amateur free agent on Jan. 18, 2018.

Kerkering, 22, is 4-1 with 14 saves, a 1.51 ERA (9 ER, 53.2 IP) and 0.89 WHIP across 49 relief appearances with single-A Clearwater (9), high-A Jersey Shore (18), double-A Reading (21) and triple-A Lehigh Valley (1) this season. He has recorded 79 strikeouts to 12 walks (6.58 SO/BB ratio), is holding opposing hitters to a .186 (36-194) average and has allowed just four home runs to the 208 batters he has faced. Kerkering, who was promoted to triple-A on Monday, 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, the Huntington Beach, Calif., native 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 and he was selected by Philadelphia in the fifth round of the 2022 MLB Draft from the University of South Florida.

“Johan is in the middle of an outstanding season,” said Preston Mattingly, Phillies director of player development. “From the first day of spring training, it was evident that Johan was motivated to show he could impact our major league team. We’re proud of his commitment to preparation and his daily improvement plans. We think Johan is just scratching the surface, and with continued development, will play in Philadelphia for years to come.”

Added Mattingly: “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.”

Instituted in 1986, the award is named for the late Paul Owens, who spent 48 years in the Phillies organization as a scout, farm director, general manager, manager and senior advisor. The players will receive their awards on the field on Tuesday, Sept. 26, prior to the Phillies’ 6:40 p.m. game against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

-Jersey Shore BlueClaws / Phillies -