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Is James Outman Being Sent Down To Minors As Bad As It Seems?

It didn’t seem long ago that James Outman was hitting go-ahead game-winning grand slams in Chicago against the Cubs and providing a youthful spark to an otherwise business-like Los Angeles Dodgers team.

Last season, on the heels of losing Cody Bellinger, another homegrown star and former MVP who struggled in his last three seasons in LA, Outman showed that he could be another homegrown Dodger who could be a burgeoning star. He not only replaced Bellinger’s bat but even his defense in center field, showing an ability to have tremendous range and make terrific catches in a demanding position.

Outman finished the 2023 season with 23 home runs, 70 RBIs, .248 batting average, and was a finalist for the NL Rookie of the Year finishing third behind winner Corbin Carroll and runner-up Kodai Senga.

However, one of the concerns of every young phenom who had a productive first season in the big leagues is whether they can build on that initial success. After all, baseball is a game of adjustments and teams will figure out your weaknesses at some point, which will involve more adjustments.

Outman didn’t close the 2023 season on a high note, and like many of his Dodgers teammates, struggled in last years NL Division series in the three-game sweep at the hands of Carroll and the Arizona Diamondbacks, providing a glimpse into what could happen in 2024.

So much so, that the Dodgers opted to retool their outfield this offseason adding free agent slugger Teoscar Hernandez and re-signing reliable veterans Jason Heyward and Kike Hernandez. These were potential insurance policies in case of injuries or if Outman struggled with his swing again.

He started the season in center field but the struggles that plagued him last year have clearly had a carryover effect this year with just three home runs, 10 RBIs, and a sparse .147 batting average, striking out 40 times in 109 at-bats.

With the emergence of rookie sensation Andy Pages and now the return of Heyward from a back injury, the Dodgers couldn’t justify keeping the struggling Outman on the 25-man roster and optioned him down to Triple-A Oklahoma City on Friday while calling up Miguel Vargas.

If anyone can relate to Outman’s offensive struggles, it’s Vargas, who never got going last season and was sent down to the minors to work on his swing mechanics and get his confidence back up.

After starting the minor league season in Oklahoma City on a strong note, hitting eight home runs with 39 RBIs and a .302 batting average in 181 at-bats while learning a new position in left field, the Dodgers are hoping Vargas can provide a spark to the bottom of the order, a consistent problem for the LA offense this season in the 7-8-9 portion of the lineup.

While Outman is among a small group of Dodgers struggling offensively this season (see Gavin Lux and Chris Taylor), he unfortunately is the odd man out for now, because of his minor league options.

However, just like with Vargas, maybe going back to Triple-A will be a blessing in disguise for Outman. It will give him time to work on his swing and fix whatever is wrong with it in a less stressful environment, and if he produces again and gets some confidence back, we will see him called up again later in the season.

The Dodgers’ depth on the team in the minors allow for this move to happen and their lofty expectations hold these players accountable for their struggles, and in the case of Outman, the production isn’t matching his potential right now.

It doesn’t he’s a bust, it just means he’s got more work to do, further proving how mentally and physically taxing and cruel the game of baseball can be at times.

Chris Camello
Chris Camellohttps://mlbreport.com/
Chris Camello has been a sports writer, reporter, and podcaster for 11 years covering all of the major sports teams throughout Los Angeles as well as college and high school sports. He currently covers high school football, basketball, and baseball for the Long Beach Press-Telegram and co-hosts as sports podcast called “The Outlet Forum” available on all major streaming platforms.


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