All spring long, Los Angeles Dodgers outfield prospect James Outman has been on a mission to prove he belongs -- or, at least, to provide additional proof to anyone still turning a blind eye.
After all, following a beyond-impressive big-league cameo after being called up alongside Miguel Vargas in 2022 (six hits and a homer in 13 at-bats), it was Vargas who entered the season with a defined position (albeit one he'd never really played before). It was also Vargas who got a longer leash in '22, playing into the postseason despite struggling to get his feet wet.
As Outman mashed all camp long, he couldn't seem to get himself off the roster bubble, lapped immediately by veteran Jason Heyward and pitted against utility man Yonny Hernández. The decision seemed obvious, though the Dodgers, lacking infield help, intentionally muddled it to cover their own tracks.
Luckily, sanity prevailed this week, as Hernández was optioned, guaranteeing that the Dodgers would use Chris Taylor at shortstop more often and roll with Outman on the bench.
Outman, informed of the decision on Thursday, called making the Dodgers "surreal" and a "dream," before showing off some of the trademark confidence fans have already fallen for.
Los Angeles Dodgers OF James Outman ready to play 'quite a bit' for Dave Roberts
"I just want to be ready whenever my name is called. So whatever that may be, if I’m starting, if I’m not starting, I still have to get in the box and I still have to put together a good at-bat. I know coming off the bench is a little more challenging. Just because you’re not necessarily in the flow of the game. I really learned that in like my first couple of Spring Trainings here, where I’d be backing up games, sit on the bench for an hour and now I have to go face 98 [mph]. But, yeah, I’ll be ready."- James Outman
Sure he will. Like he said, he's done it before, camp after camp. It's unorthodox, but he's got the talent.
And, besides, he'll be starting by midseason anyway. Forgive us for being optimistic. Dave Roberts' praise, combined with the kid's natural talent, just screams that he'll be given an opportunity to walk through the first door that opens.
Last season, Outman hit .294 with a .978 OPS and 31 bombs in 125 games split between Double-A and Triple-A. He didn't slow down whatsoever after being elevated; he hit .295 with 16 blasts at the lower level, then .292 with 15 ... in 11 fewer games at the upper level. Outman might be the last man on the roster, technically speaking, but he's gotten a taste.
Trayce Thompson should be on high alert -- or, in Outman's terms, "be ready."