by Reading Fightin Phils
Johan Rojas and Orion Kerkering, both members of the 2023 Reading Fightin Phils, were named the 2023 Paul Owens Award winners by the Philadelphia Phillies on Thursday. The award is annually given out to the Phillies’ top minor league hitter and pitcher.
Rojas entered the season on the Fightin Phils roster after excelling in over 60 games in 2022. He swiped 29 bags and hit .260 to finish off last season. Rojas excelled again in 2023 with the R-Phils. Over 76 games in Reading, he hit .306, with nine home runs and 45 RBI, and stole 30 bases.
Rojas’ defense stole the show as well. The center fielder had five outfield assists in 2023 and was amongst the leaders in Minor League Baseball in defensive runs saved. He was promoted to the Phillies on July 14 and has continued to excel on both sides of the ball in the majors.
With the Phillies, Rojas is once again among the leaders in defensive runs saved, even with a very limited sample size. Over 52 games, Rojas is hitting .301 with two home runs and 21 RBI. He is also 13-for-14 in stolen bases in the big leagues.
The Phillies signed Rojas in 2018 as an International Free Agent out of the Dominican Republic. He began his professional career in the Dominican Summer League in 2018 and made stops at every Phillies affiliate between signing and his big-league debut in July.
Kerkering was promoted to Double-A Reading on July 6 after a stellar start to the season with both Single-A Clearwater and High-A Jersey Shore. With the R-Phils, Kerkering was excellent as a late-inning reliever in Reading’s bullpen. Across 21 games, Kerkering had a 2.05 ERA, with 33 strikeouts and just five walks in 22 innings. That is good for 13.5 strikeouts per nine innings. He was also seven-for-eight in saves.
He finished off his Reading tenure on a high note. Kerkering converted on his final seven save opportunities and did not allow an earned run in his final eight appearances, as well as 15-of-16 to finish his Double-A campaign. His strong finish earned him a promotion to Triple-A Lehigh Valley on Sept. 18.
In total, Kerkering has pitched in all four full-season levels of the Phillies minor leagues. He has posted a 4-1 record, with a 1.51 ERA across 49 total appearances in 2023. Kerkering converted 14-of-16 save opportunities so far in 2023. The Phillies selected Kerkering in the fifth round of the 2022 draft out of the University of South Florida. He made six appearances between the FCL Phillies and Clearwater last season.
The Reading Fightin Phils return to FirstEnergy Stadium to open the 2024 season on April 9, 2024, against the Portland Sea Dogs. Season tickets, mini plans, and group outings for 2024 are now available. For more details, go to rphils.com, call 610-370-BALL, or visit the Customers Bank Ticket Office.
The 2023 R-Phils season is presented by Pepsi. Follow the Fightin Phils on Twitter @ReadingFightins, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Instagram @Fightins.