Phillies select USF pitcher Orion Kerkering in 5th round of MLB draft

Notes | The son of former Rays catcher Toby Hall is picked by the Brewers, while Hillsborough High grad Tim Elko is taken by the White Sox after a CWS title.
Orion Kerkering anchored USF's bullpen during the Bulls' 2021 run to the Super Regional, and he returned to that spot in 2022 before the Phillies drafted him.
Orion Kerkering anchored USF's bullpen during the Bulls' 2021 run to the Super Regional, and he returned to that spot in 2022 before the Phillies drafted him. [ PHELAN M. EBENHACK | Associated Press ]
Published July 19, 2022|Updated July 20, 2022

When USF Friday night starter Jack Jasiak suffered a season-ending injury in March, head coach Billy Mohl felt reliever Orion Kerkering was the Bulls’ best option for that role. If anything, it’d be beneficial to him — college starters tended to fare better in the MLB draft than relievers, Mohl said.

Kerkering threw 5-1/3 shutout innings against FIU in his first start. He didn’t lose until the UCF game five appearances later. But after that loss to the Knights turned into a streak of three, Mohl moved Kerkering back to the bullpen for the rest of the season. He could never find that “groove” in the rotation, Mohl said.

And that’s when Kerkering mostly returned to the role — a high-leverage reliever — that helped key his rise as an MLB prospect, one the Phillies selected in the fifth round Monday with pick No. 152.

“You could tell it was different. He was pacing himself, but it was OK …” Mohl said Monday night. “Then we put him back in the bullpen, and it was good again.”

Kerkering was one of more than a dozen players with ties to local high schools or Florida colleges selected during Day 2 of the MLB draft Monday.

He finished his USF career with 167 strikeouts in 129-2/3 innings, including 91 strikeouts in 2022, third-most in the American Athletic Conference. And during the 2021 season, when the Bulls’ clinched the program’s first-ever berth in a Super Regional, Kerkering anchored their bullpen with a 5-3 record, 2.88 ERA and five saves.

“I’m glad he was a Bull,” Mohl said.

One key to Kerkering’s rise, Mohl said, was improved command since he first watched him pitch at a Fort Myers tournament. His fastball hovered in the mid-80s then, but Mohl was impressed with Kerkering’s ability to throw a breaking ball. On his way back from the game, Mohl called the Venice High right-hander, and the pair clicked. Kerkering threw eight times during the shortened 2020 season before really blossoming in 2021, and “here we are four years later,” Mohl said.

Son of former Devil Ray taken

Tayden Hall, the son of former Devil Rays catcher Toby Hall, was selected by the Brewers in the ninth round at pick No. 282. Hall played at Steinbrenner High before hitting .364 with a .636 slugging percentage for State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota this past season.

The Devil Rays drafted Hall’s father in the ninth round in 1997, and he played parts of seven seasons with them (2000-06) before being traded to the Dodgers in 2006. He later signed with the White Sox and Astros.

More local connections

Gabriel Rincones Jr., who played at Plant High, was selected by the Phillies in the third round at No. 93 overall. Hillsborough High graduate Tim Elko — who won the College World Series with Ole Miss — went to the White Sox at No. 311.

Stay updated on Tampa Bay’s sports scene

Stay updated on Tampa Bay’s sports scene

Subscribe to our free Sports Today newsletter

We’ll send you news and analysis on the Bucs, Lightning, Rays and Florida’s college football teams every day.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options

Day 2 area/major state college picks

Pick, Team, Name, Pos., School

Third round

88. Colorado, Carson Palmquist, LHP, Miami

90. New York Mets, Brandon Sproat, RHP, Florida

93. Philadelphia, Gabriel Rincones Jr., OF, FAU (Plant High, SPC)

94. Cincinnati, Bryce Hubbart, LHP, Florida State

105. Los Angeles Dodgers, Alex Freeland, SS, UCF

Fourth round

122. Philadelphia, Alex McFarlane, RHP, Miami

Fifth round

145. Kansas City, Hunter Patteson, LHP, UCF

146. Colorado, Connor Staine, RHP, UCF

152. Philadelphia, Orion Kerkering, RHP, USF

Ninth round

261. Washington, Maxwell Romero Jr., C, Miami

282. Milwaukee, Tayden Hall, C, State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota (Steinbrenner High)

10th round

261. Washington, Maxwell Romero Jr., C, Miami

311. Chicago White Sox, Tim Elko, 1B, Ole Miss (Hillsborough High)

• • •

Never miss out on the latest with the Bucs, Rays, Lightning, Florida college sports and more. Follow our Tampa Bay Times sports team on Twitter and Facebook.