The James Outman era has been fun so far for Dodgers fans. Coming off of years of struggle with Cody Bellinger in center field, it’s certainly been a breath of fresh air. If you squint your eyes and make things a little blurry, you might be able to see some comparisons with the start of Outman’s career and Bellinger’s six seasons back.
Both are lefty sluggers that possess all five tools on the field. Both also came up at interesting times for LA’s roster. In 2017, Dave Roberts was tasked with navigating a roster overstuffed with veterans a little past their prime (Adrian Gonzalez, Chase Utley, Andre Ethier) and younger players fighting for playing time (Kiké Hernandez, Kyle Farmer, Alex Verdugo, Bellinger). Now in 2023, it’s more of the same.
Fans will likely recall that was an era of heavy lineup platooning for the Dodgers. Joc Pederson, Ethier, Hernandez, all guys caught up in left/right platooning. This week Roberts said he doesn’t see James Outman falling in that platoon trap.
“No, I don’t. He hangs in there against a lefty. I’m not saying he’s going to play against every lefty. Chicago’s got a couple lefties so I might give him a day during that series. … I don’t want him to be kind of pigeonholed too much at this point.”Via OC Register
So far Outman has been fairly protected against lefty pitching. He’s only started one game as a big leaguer against a left-handed starting pitcher. That was Madison Bumgarner and it happened last week. He also took MadBum deep for his first home run and first career hit off a lefty.
Outman will start in center field tonight against another LHP, old friend Alex Wood. In the eyes of Roberts, it’s something James has earned with his play and his overall growth as a complete baseball player.
“When you get a smart player, and know some of the tendencies, and you’re pretty self-aware, you can make an adjustment and he’s done that,” Roberts said. “And it’s been pretty impressive because young players, I mean you see our veteran guys that get overzealous and chase when they shouldn’t. … I think sometimes it’s a good lesson for our veteran players to see that.”Via The Athletic
People may forget that Cody Bellinger got caught up in the platoon trap back in the day. But he was a guy that showed a tendency to be stubborn with his adjustments and an unwillingness to change and adapt his swing to the league. That may have very well helped him play his way out of LA. For James Outman, he’s put in the work and deserves to take the next steps in his growth as a major leaguer.