If the Los Angeles Dodgers are going to turn the keys over to the next generation, the might need a de facto captain for the kids.
Based on the way Michael Grove and his former Triple-A teammates have been blown away by James Outman's exploits so far, the center fielder might just be the man for the job.
All Outman does is hit and look slick while doing it. In his 2022 cameo, while the Dodgers were still trying to fit Square Peg Cody Bellinger into his round hole, the 25-year-old went 6-for-13 with two walks in 15 plate appearances, rocking a home run. Sure, he struck out seven times, accounting for ... every out he made during that campaign (crazy), but the seeds had been sown for additional playing time.
Unfortunately, that wish didn't manifest itself until 2023. Luckily, Outman didn't lose the spark over the summer. Further motivated to stand out, he mashed all spring long, hitting three bombs and OPSing .957 in 53 Cactus League at-bats. The Dodgers managed to shuffle the deck chairs around in the outfield and find room to carry him north, and he's continued to bash with machine-like efficiency.
Even the people who know him best have been left impressed, as No. 5 starter Michael Grove made clear after his 2023 debut.
Dodgers rookie outfielder James Outman has Michael Grove texting his Triple-A buddies
As Grove put it:
"“It’s awesome. I’ll text guys from Triple-A and we’re like, ‘This guy is the best player ever'. Now I’ve been with him at every level — pulling for him all the time. It’s really impressive what he’s doing right now.”"- Michael Grove
Grove gutted it out in his seasonal debut through four innings of three-run ball (while battling an illness). Outman didn't help much (slacker!), going 0-for-2 with a walk and a pair of Ks in Tuesday's game, but he'd more than made up for it the day prior when he slammed two triples, one of which served as the go-ahead hit mid-comeback.
It's a small sample size, of course, but so far, Outman and fellow rookie Miguel Vargas have combined to make all conversations about the Dodgers' choice not to pursue stars this offseason sound as silly as their stat lines.