Typically, convincing Dodgers diehards to fall in love with prospects, too, is a tough sell. The MLB roster is stacked beyond belief. The offense is made up of nine wrecking balls tied together. Plus, didn’t we all just sit through the whole Gavin Lux thing, which took ten different kinds of patience before he finally broke out?
In the case of James Outman, the case for paying attention now is much easier. With Cody Bellinger struggling yet again, Chris Taylor potentially transitioning back to a super utility role, and Joey Gallo looking like an experiment rather than a regular, it’s very easy to see Outman contributing heavily in 2023.
It’s also very easy to see him contributing next year because … he flat-out rakes. You don’t need to color-code his statistical case to figure out where he might fit. Always a vaunted hitting prospect, Outman’s power output surged in 2022. His slugging percentage rose nearly 100 points (.582 vs. .490) year over year, even as he contended with a Double-A/Triple-A split vs. a High-A/Double-A campaign in 2021.
Some of that’s attributable to the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, sure. But Outman painted the same picture at Double-A Tulsa (.552 slugging/.946 OPS/16 homers in 68 games) as he has at the highest level.
So what changed? According to an exclusive interview with Outman on The Incline, he’s not sure he made a grand adjustment — but he definitely has learned more about what other people think of his swing since reaching the big-league level.
Dodgers top prospect James Outman continues to slug at Triple-A
How did Outman turn into a power threat midway through his career?
“Just building my at-bat quality, learning from all these guys, learning from the experiences I’ve had. Obviously building my swing,” he put simply. “But in terms of physical adjustments, compared to last year, there haven’t been too many. Just minor tweaks. The biggest thing is not being too focused on what my swing is looking like. More so, does it feel right? Am I on time? Am I swinging at good pitches?”
Outman acknowledged that his swing is considered short and to the point these days, but you’ll forgive him if he isn’t quite sure how it got there. According to the outfielder, all his hitting coaches have ever preached is having a good hand path and staying connected with the ball all the way through after letting it get deep.
As for how his particular swing responded to that advice, it’s just natural.
“Maybe my hips are a little tight?” Outman mused. “Combined with the way my body moves, maybe that’s it. I never really thought [my stance] was compact before I got called up and people started telling me it was.”
Compact or long and loping, whatever feels natural to the red-hot Outman should be the path moving forward, especially considering the heights he’s reached this season (hitting for the cycle twice, hitting .462 with a bomb in a big-league cameo, etc.).
It’s tough to say this declaratively with the Dodgers, but we’ll take a chance, in this case. Next year’s the year for Outman. Get ready to overanalyze this swing for generations.