As fast as the James Outman craze captured the hearts of Dodgers fans in early August, it quickly drifted into the sunset once some of the club’s more experienced players began getting healthy.
While you could probably say that Chris Taylor’s return had a direct impact on Outman’s demotion, the acquisition of the lefty-hitting Joey Gallo almost ensured that Outman probably won’t be recalled for the remainder of 2022.
Even though it seems so long ago, it’s still hard to forget the 25-year-old, lefty-hitting Outman’s MLB debut against the Rockies, as he was just a triple shy of the cycle. His 3-for-4, three-RBI effort immediately proved to his naysayers that he had the skills to compete in the majors.
By the time the team activated Taylor on August 5, Outman had appeared in four games, going 6-for-13 with two doubles and a homer and showing he can handle defensive duties in both left and right field.
While there’s probably not much else he could have done to plead his big-league case, he continues to handle Triple-A pitching very well.
On Friday night against El Paso, Outman finally got his cycle, going 5-for-5 in what was certainly the most memorable offensive performance of his career. With the game tied 4-4 and two runners on base in the bottom of the ninth, Outman launched a walkoff bomb into the right field bleachers that caused pandemonium in the local Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark crowd.
During his time in the minors this year, Outman has slashed a combined .287/.387/.569 with 25 doubles, 23 homers and 84 RBI in 30 games with OKC and 68 with Double-A Tulsa.
OKC’s victory on Saturday night over the Chihuahuas featured blue chip infielder Michael Busch leading off and Outman hitting out of the two-hole, creating perhaps one of the best one-two punches in the Pacific Coast League.
If Gallo continues to produce and all the other primary outfielders stay healthy, there’s virtually no chance fans see Outman again in the majors this year.
However, Joey Gallo is a free agent at the end of the season, opening one possible door for Outman heading into next year. Outside of that, the Dodgers have limitless options on how they want to build their outfield moving forward.
Mookie Betts is around for a long time, and Taylor’s contract covers at least another three years. Cody Bellinger will be back for his final arbitration year in 2023, giving the team one final look before deciding if they want to commit to the former MVP long term.
Based on the way Thompson has performed, the team could offer him a deal on the cheap, especially if he continues to contribute throughout the postseason.
Still, with the lack of lefty hitters — assuming Gallo doesn’t return — there’s a good a chance as any Outman makes a run at an Opening Day roster spot in 2023.