Can Dodgers' James Outman, Miguel Vargas go toe-to-toe in NL Rookie of the Year race?
By Jamaal Artis
When the Los Angeles Dodgers made a concerted effort to reduce their payroll in the offseason, that meant losing veteran players who made significant contributions to their record breaking 111-win season.
Gone were longtime stalwarts Justin Turner and Cody Bellinger as well as perennial All-Star shortstop Trea Turner. Though the Dodgers made moves to bring in veterans Miguel Rojas and JD Martinez, it's a pair of rookies who have had to step up.
On April 19, rookie infielder Miguel Vargas was mired in a miserable stretch at the plate. Perhaps it was rookie jitters or due to a lingering spring training hand injury, but Vargas was hitting a paltry .191 with just three RBI and zero home runs.
If the Dodgers had their usual roster depth perhaps Vargas would have been sent to Triple-A to work out the kinks, but with Gavin Lux out for the season and Rojas out with an injury, Vargas was left to sink or swim.
Since that nadir, Vargas has turned things around. Over the next 12 games (10 starts), he would hit .286 with an .848 OPS and 10 RBI. Over those 12 games, the Dodgers are 9-3 thanks in part to Vargas' contributions.
On Tuesday night against the Philadelphia Phillies in a 13-1 blowout, Vargas had the first four-hit game of his career, with three doubles and three RBI. It was the type of performance that showed what Vargas could do with his bat at the bottom of the lineup.
The Dodgers' other rookie, James Outman, came out of spring training trying to fit into Bellinger's big shoes. Outman has proven to be the real deal, starting his Dodgers career by being named the National League's Rookie of the Month for April.
Outman hit .292 with seven home runs and 20 RBI in April and owns a .961 OPS and 154 OPS+. He's certainly the frontrunner for NL Rookie of the Year this this very moment.
Outman has been doing this while also covering center field, committing zero errors and flashing some brilliance much as his predecessor Bellinger did.
Both Vargas and Outman have rewarded the Dodgers front office's faith in their rookies with the kind of production that is already helping carry the team in a ma. Though the roster turnover in the offseason looked bleak, it might be acquiesced in the form of both Outman and Vargas eventually going toe-to-toe in the NL Rookie of the Year race. You never know.