Relive all of the ups and downs of the 2023 Miami Marlins with our Fish On First Season Review, containing detailed articles about a wide variety of players. The FOF staff analyzes the individual impact that each of them had and what it means for their future with the organization.
This installment focuses on reliever Steven Okert.
- March 22—reported to be dealing with adductor issue
- March 30—placed on 15-day IL with left abductor strain
- April 7—commenced rehab assignment at Triple-A Jacksonville
- April 21—activated from 15-day IL
- July 16—served as “opener” in first professional start since 2019
Notable 2023 Statistics: 4.45 ERA, 4.09 FIP, 1.4 HR/9, 11.2 K/9 in 58.2 IP (age-31 season)
Take a look at Steven Okert’s two-year stretch from 2021-2022: 2.89 ERA (145 ERA+), 10.6 K/9 in 87.1 IP. Pretty good on the surface, right?
But what was brewing beneath the surface during that period? A less convincing 4.35 FIP, 4.2 BB/9 and 1.2 HR/9.
Okert’s initial success on the heels of signing a minor league deal with the Marlins seemed somewhat fluky. His luck dried up during the second half of 2023.
This isn’t to say that Okert’s most recent season was all bad. In some respects, the baseball gods overcorrected. He posted a career-best 11.2 K/9 while shouldering the largest workload of his big league career (58.2 IP). He lowered his BB/9 to a more respectable 3.7 figure. For the first time since 2017, his ERA (4.45) was higher than his FIP (4.09).
Okert already had some trouble preventing the long ball. Among the 147 relievers to throw at least 85 innings between 2021-22, his 1.2 HR/9 ranked 114th. The difference in 2023 was he allowed them at inconvenient times. Five of the nine came with runners on base and three directly gave opponents the lead.
Okert’s frisbee-slider remained effective (plus-7 run value, 34 K%). However, that was entirely negated by the vulnerability of his four-seam fastball (minus-8 RV). Opponents essentially turned into 2023 Jake Burger against Okert’s fastball, hitting .289 with a .518 SLG in the 96 plate appearances ending on that pitch.
Most of Okert’s struggles occurred following the All-Star break. The majority of his appearances down the stretch came in the sixth inning or earlier as Skip Schumaker shied away from giving him too much influence on a game’s outcome. Waiver claim Matt Moore vaulted past him in the lefty reliever pecking order during the season’s closing weeks.
Okert made his first-ever postseason appearance in Game 1 of the NL Wild Card Series (1.0 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K).
Okert is set for arbitration for the first time ahead of the 2024 season. MLB Trade Rumors estimates that his pay will increase to approximately $1.2M if tendered a contract.
Even with Moore becoming a free agent, the Marlins are well-stocked with left-handed bullpen options between Okert, Tanner Scott, Andrew Nardi, and A.J. Puk. That’s without mentioning Trevor Rogers or Ryan Weathers, who theoretically could transition to the ‘pen if unable to win starting rotation spots.
Important to note, Okert is out of minor league options. It’s up to Peter Bendix and his front office to render a verdict on whether he’s a true asset to the club moving forward or a superfluous depth arm to be used as a trade chip.
Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images