STAT LINE: 10 G, 7.1 IP, 8 K, 0 BB, 1.23 ERA, 2.75 FIP
Steven Okert didn’t pitch a lot for the Giants this year, but when he did, he really couldn’t have done much more. His first nine appearances of the year in the majors were scoreless, and in his final one, the last game of the year, he didn’t give up a run until his second inning of work. Considering that quite a few Giants fans gave up on him after a 2017 season where he pitched like a 2017 Giant, his positive performance in a small sample in the majors at least gave us a reason to think that maybe those good minor league numbers he’s put up for most of his career could mean something in the big leagues someday after all.
Okert’s numbers in the minors this year weren’t so impressive, with a 4.55 ERA across 31.2 innings. There is a caveat to that, though: almost all of that damage came over two games. One of them, a six earned run inning against Albuquerque in late June, was just a disaster inning. But the first, an inning against Tacoma in mid-April where he gave up five runs, happened because he was pitching through a lat strain that would end up costing him a month and a half. If you remove the outing where he was pitching injured, Okert’s ERA in Sacramento drops to 3.23, and his year in AAA starts to look pretty solid.
Also, he got a haircut. Gotta appreciate a man who knows his flow can’t compete with Dereck Rodriguez’s.
ROLE ON THE 2018 TEAM: He barely had one! Okert was called up for a day in April, didn’t get into a game, and was sent down the next day so that Andrew Suarez could be called up. Then he had to wait until September to get back to the majors, and mostly pitched in games where the Giants were facing insurmountable deficits, like 2 runs, or 1 run, or being tied after the offense had already scored.
ROLE ON THE 2019 TEAM: You can make a case that Okert has a shot at making the 2019 team even if neither Tony Watson nor Will Smith gets traded this offseason. Okert is much more of a LOOGY than either Watson or Smith — it didn’t show up in the majors this year, but in AAA righties had a .899 OPS against him while opposing lefties had just a .501 OPS — whose lefty-righty splits are minimal, so it’s not like he’d be taking anyone’s place. But Ty Blach is likely to be the long man, and you don’t see a lot of bullpens with four lefties in them.
It’s not impossible he’ll find a place. There certainly is a spot that he could claim, but it’s far too early to predict he will. It’ll depend on what the team does this offseason, what the new front office thinks of Okert, and probably how he does in Spring Training. Still, his future with the team is probably brighter than it was this time last year, when he was coming off a very poor 2017 season.
The Giants had a crowded bullpen this year, and even if Okert had forced the issue a little more in Sacramento, it’s tough to see how he’d have gotten much time in it. But in the outings he did have, he impressed, and it’s pretty clear that of all the left-handed relievers with 5-letter last names that start with O in the Giants organization, Steven Okert’s the one on top.