If you’re a minor league baseball fan, one of the coolest things about spring training is seeing some of the most promising young prospects taking hacks against big-league pitching. What’s even more interesting is when some of these players are freshly anointed to the 40-man roster, knowing that their respective regular-season debuts could be coming soon.
One of those players for the Dodgers is 24-year-old outfielder James Outman. The lefty-hitting, righty-throwing native of Redwood City was named to the team’s 40-man roster last winter to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. But what’s intriguing is that he might legitimately have a shot at some MLB playing time this year, especially when considering the thinness of the Los Angeles outfield.
The first thing that came to mind when I took a close look at Outman was a DJ Peters type of player from the opposite side of the plate. Like Peters, Outman is gifted athletically, both in terms of power, speed and quickness. At 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, he’s a tad smaller than Peters, but their minor league numbers are similar, including a high number of strikeouts.
Between two levels last year, Outman hit .266/.379/.490 with 21 doubles, nine triples, 18 long balls and an impressive 23 stolen bases; but he struck out 139 times in 491 plate appearances. He has a decent arm and can handle all three outfield spots, just like Peters. Many believe he profiles best in center field.
Scouts feel that Outman has more upside than Peters because of his ability to get on base. He drew 65 walks and was hit by a pitch 13 times last season, leading to his respectable .379 OBP. He’s smart and had a good head, which might help when it comes to making more contact at the plate.
Outman is currently rated as the 18th best prospect in the Dodgers system, according to MLB Pipeline.
It should be interesting to see how the 7th round 2018 draft pick handles Triple-A pitching after a decent showing in the pitcher-friendly Double-A Texas League last season.
One might guess that Outman could be higher up on the pecking order as far as fringe players go, but let’s not forget about guys like Zach McKinstry and Ryan Noda who are technically listed as infielders. Plus, you have players like Kevin Pillar and Jake Lamb who could jump onto the big-league scene like the way Steven Souza Jr. did last year. Similarly, guys like Omar Estevez and Eddys Leonard, who are also freshly anointed to the 40-man, have been floating out into the outfield for a few quick looks recently.
In the majors, it’s primarily a four-player rotation with Mookie Betts, Cody Bellinger, AJ Pollock and Chris Taylor, but it will be interesting to see what happens in the case of an injury. Gavin Lux had some action in the outfield last season, and if he can maintain any type of consistency on offense, may try to wiggle into the lineup in any way possible. Edwin Rios can also play a little left field, but still hasn’t earned a ton of trust out there.
The Dodgers had a monstrous 15 guys play in the outfield last season, including lesser-known names like Zach Reks, Billy McKinney, Luke Raley, Yoshi Tsutsugo and more. If we see that much fluidity in the roster this year, there’s a good chance Outman might get a few looks.