It’s never too early to plan ahead.
James Outman enjoyed a successful first full season with the Los Angeles Dodgers, but there are certain skills that could take him to the next level offensively. Specifically, fewer strikeouts at the dish, and greater aggression on the base paths could aid the Dodgers’ quest to bring home a title in 2024 .
The California native finished third in the National League Rookie of the Year voting last season after slashing 248/.353/.437, belting 23 home runs and driving in 70 RBI. Outman hit 12 homers and posted a .851 OPS in the second half of the season, a major reason why LA was able to secure the NL West’s top slot prior to October.
Even with the high notes, his first full big league campaign could best be described as a “feast or famine” experience. He had extremely productive months in April and July, but disappointed in the months of June and September.
While it is normal for any player to experience ups and downs during a long MLB season, young players such as Outman should be constantly looking for ways to raise their own personal “floor.” For the 2018 draft pick, it would be wise to cut down on strikeouts.
According to Baseball Savant, Outman ranked in the sixth percentile in terms of K% and the second percentile in terms of whiff% last year. He did not record a single hit in the postseason (but, really, which Dodger did?), and struck out three times in five at-bats.
Dodgers' James Outman can develop under radar in 2024 Dodgers lineup
Limiting strikeouts could help Outman in the regular season and during playoff games. The Dodgers could greatly benefit from an intelligent hitter at the bottom of the order who can adapt his approach based on the stakes of the situation. Freddie Freeman, Mookie Betts, and now Shohei Ohtani will provide consistent pop towards the top of the lineup. A more strategic Outman behind these talents could be a game-changer.
Last season, the now 26-year-old outfielder snagged 16 stolen bases. He was second on the team in this department, only behind Freeman, who nabbed 23 stolen bases.
Given the sort of firepower the lineup will have at its disposal next year, and the fact that stealing bases has become a bigger part of the game with recent regulation changes, Outman’s speed could become more of an asset.
He ranked in the 88th percentile in terms of sprint speed last year. Assuming he bats towards the bottom third of the order, Outman could place himself in scoring position and give the stars a chance to drive him in.
It is clear that James Outman has both a high ceiling and plenty of room for growth. As far as 2024 is concerned, he has an opportunity to develop greater versatility and deliver the boys in blue a consistent (yet unde-the-radar) spark plug.
If all goes according to plan, the Dodgers will have a chance to write their own redemption arc.