[Editor’s note: A total of 12 prospects received votes in our True Blue LA community ranking, which we are revealing in reverse order for the next few weeks. Pitchers Clayton Beeter and Landon Knack were tied at No. 11.]
I don’t know if you will see James Outman ranked higher on any other media prospect rankings (or mine for that matter), but I don’t know if the community is wrong in their sentiment, either. With his tremendous defensive ability and raw physical traits, there is an avenue to Outman becoming a first-division center or right fielder with plus defense, pop, and plate discipline. What ultimately holds Outman back, for other lists and myself, are the overall concerns on the hit tool relative to his age and level of development (requiring roster protection, etc.).
Outman is likely here because of the rapid developments he made in High-A, that he maintained though a call-up to Double-A and assignment to the Arizona Fall League. Long a tools over skills guy, Outman tapped into his raw power to up his slugging percentage and impact the baseball more consistently beyond the three-outcome profile.
He still drew walks and strikeouts in bunches, but he more consistently drove the ball when he put it in play to reap the benefits on additional doubles and triples to hit .250/.385/.472 in High-A and .285/.369/.518 in Double-A. Outman’s strikeouts come from a combination of steep angle of attack in his swing and from a plate approach that can border on being too patient. He works counts and will keep discipline on chasing pitches, but he could stand to be more aggressive on fastballs in the zone. Outman’s pull heavy approach could lead to 25+ home run seasons if he could hold down a full time role.
While Outman does not display large platoon splits, he often gets mentioned as a role player or bench bat at the big league level. He would likely be slated for an everyday role in a second division club, but the Dodgers would likely use him more cautiously given their depth. His defensive ability and athleticism has helped to up his floor to fourth outfielder as his bat has developed.
Whether or not Outman can cut or even hold his strikeout rate to the mid 20-percent range will determine how close he comes to his ceiling of everyday outfielder with at least four average tools. Occasionally though the bottom can drop out for guys like this and the swing-and-miss concerns become a major red flag. He’s less heralded a prospect than Joc Pederson was, and is a better athlete than Pederson, but his major league impact could be similar in a realistic best case scenario.