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Dodgers: What Could James Outman’s Role Look Like Next Season?

Dodgers prospect James Outman got a brief cup of coffee in the big leagues in late July and early August, homering in his first MLB at-bat on July 31 and posting a 1.409 OPS in four games with Los Angeles. Outman also had a 1.018 OPS in 252 Triple-A plate appearances after posting a .946 OPS in 307 PA in Double-A. Overall, Outman hit 32 homers and drove in 109 runs across the three levels.

Outman’s performance in the minors and his success in his brief stint in the majors has a lot of fans thinking the Dodgers should drop Cody Bellinger and install Outman as the everyday center-fielder. While we don’t hate the idea, we do want to put a little bit of a damper on all that Outmania with a few statistical tidbits.

First, while Outman went 6-for-13 in the big leagues, it’s worth remembering that he struck out in all seven of his at-bats that weren’t hits. Right at this moment, he holds the MLB record for most plate appearances in a career with a 1.000 batting average on balls in play for non-pitchers. Only pitcher Jesse Chavez, who is 2-for-22 with 20 strikeouts in his career, has more PA than Outman with a 1.000 BABIP.

No, Outman probably won’t strike out in 43.8% of his big-league plate appearances, but he does strike out a lot. His strikeout rate in the minors this year was 27.2%, nearly identical to Bellinger’s 27.3% against much tougher pitching.

Defensively, Outman probably won’t be quite as good as Bellinger, but he’s an excellent defensive option at all three outfield spots. His has good speed, good instincts, and a strong arm.

And then we get to the big question that seems to plague all left-handed hitters: Can he hit left-handed pitching? For Outman, the answer seems to be, “Definitely not as well as he hits righties.” In the minors in 2022, he had a 1.090 OPS against righties and a .739 OPS against lefties. It was even more pronounced in his brief MLB stint, with a 1.488 OPS against righties and .500 against lefties.

Outman probably isn’t ready to take over as the everyday center-fielder for the Dodgers. If they decide to part ways with Bellinger maybe they install Outman anyway, but a more prudent action might be to have him as the fourth outfielder, getting plenty of starts in multiple outfield positions against righties and taking key at-bats off the bench in games started by lefties. He’s definitely ready to be in the big leagues, but it might be best to tame our expectations a little bit.

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Jeff Snider

Jeff was born into a Dodgers family in Southern California and is now raising a Dodgers family of his own in Utah. During his previous career as an executive at a technology company, he began writing about baseball in his spare time. After leaving corporate America in 2014, he started doing it professionally. Jeff wrote and edited for Baseball Essential for years before joining Dodgers Nation. He's also the co-host of the Locked On Dodgers podcast, a daily podcast that brings the smart fan's perspective on our Boys in Blue. Jeff has a degree in English from Brigham Young University. Favorite Player: Clayton Kershaw Favorite Moment: Kirk Gibson's homer will always have a place, but Kershaw's homer on Opening Day 2013 might be the winner.


  1. Knowing how much Bellinger strikes out and not hitting as many home runs,I believe Outman should replace him.Outman also seems to have that tough mental factor that so many baseball players lack.

  2. Yep, very well stated. Realistically, if we don’t sign a Nimo type we are going to need Cody’s defense in CF and strong infield defense due primarily to the shift rule change.
    I find it odd that Manfred and Co. would outlaw the shift something that has been part of baseball history while keeping the ghost runner and 3 batter rules and worse, messing with the baseball any time it fits their strategy.

  3. I like Cody, but we need someone who can provide both offense and defense. We need to trade him.

  4. Outman should definitely be on the big league roster this year. If the ban on the shift benefits Bellinger, and I think it definitely will, leave him as the CF starter. Outman can then back up all three spots in the outfield for Betts, Bellinger and Thompson…

  5. If Outman wants a significant spot on active roster he MUST cut down on his strikeouts. As we saw in NLDS, that was a big reason why Dodgers got bounced because more often than not, too many hitters FAILED to put ball in play. And this need to reduce these K’s goes for everyone including the minor league guys like Bucsh and Pages among others

  6. Play Outman against right handed pitching, all over the outfield. He will be at least as productive as Bellinger, if not more so, and save $17 million to use more productively, such as toward signing Rodon, now that they were too frugal to sign Tyler Anderson for a reasonable amount. Or save the money to sign Ohtani after 2023.

  7. Outman’s sample size is pretty small. He had a high strikeout rate. Just for fun, and a winter time boredom lifter, why not put Bellinger in the leadoff spot? He would be forced to change his hitting approach. He would see a lot of fast balls because pitchers would not want to walk him with the batters that followed and he could steal a lot of bases. And, at least once a game, he would not strike out with runners on base. Just bored (and old).

    1. He hasn’t changed his approach yet. Why give him another at bat. There are lots of great glove no hit outfielders his last year’s salary would have paid for 15 years worth

  8. The strikeout rates for Outman, Pages Busch as well as those on big league roster at present must all work on reducing that K %. Among other things it was pointed out that Astros won the WS due in part for putting ball in play when it mattered the most

  9. Spending less money @ short & less on other unproductive veterans might free up the money to sign Judge. Quite honestly we did not get the offensive production from any of the left fielders
    used. Maybe w/Judge in right we get at least two solid if not sure All-stars (great offense) in the outfield w/Betts & Judge opening up an opportunity for one or our young future potential stars! The attempt was made to go w/veterans & win a series. Obviously it didn’t work! Time to mix in some youth w/our proven Veterans.

  10. Outman is going to be a terrific player at some point so get him up and running with the big boys. Folks , I don’t think Cashman will let Judge leave NY at any cost. Got to start working around that idea.

    1. I’ve said all along that Judge will return to the Yankees and Dodgers need to address pitching, SS and other OF options not named Judge.

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