James Outman had a historic rookie season in 2023, leading to him finishing third in National League Rookie of the Year voting.
Entering spring training, Outman had only a handful of big league at bats back in the 2022 season, and wasn’t guaranteed to make the 26-man roster at the start of the regular season. Outman put together a strong case to begin the season as the starting center fielder, slashing .292/.397/.604 with three home runs and 11 RBI in 48 spring training at bats.
Manager Dave Roberts was left with no choice but to add Outman to the active roster to begin the 2023 season— a decision that the Dodgers wouldn’t regret making.
Outman started his season with a bang— quite literally— as he went deep in the Dodgers opening day victory over the eventual NL champion Arizona Diamondbacks. Outman scorched throughout the month of April, as he would slash .289/.366/.600, crushing six home runs and driving in 18. In recognition of his incredible production, Outman was awarded as the NL rookie of the month for April.
While he had an impressive month in terms of his power, he struggled mightily with his patience at the plate, striking out 33 times and walking just nine times in April.
After a blistering start to the season, Outman faced his fair share of struggles over the next two months.
Outman had a decent beginning to May, posting a .250 average over his first nine games of the month, which included an emphatic extra inning go-ahead home run on May 7 against the San Diego Padres in a 2022 NLDS rematch. After the team’s three game series in Milwaukee, Outman would go hitless in his next six games before connecting for two hits against the Minnesota Twins on May 17, which included a go-ahead grand slam. Outman would again go hitless, this time over a seven game stretch from May 20 to May 28, before recording his last hit of the month on May 29 against the Washington Nationals. He would finish the month slashing an abysmal .165/.261/.291, striking out a woeful 34 times while walking just eight times.
Outman would continue to struggle in the month of June, striking out in all but four games. Outman would fail to connect for a single home run in the month, while he slashed .224/.297/.254, striking out 26 times and walking just six times. Through the first three months of the season, Outman struck out 93 times and walked just 23 times, leading to an on base percentage of .316 at the end of June.
After the All-Star break, Outman posted a similar slash line to his meteoric month of April, while also becoming more patient at the plate. While the power diminished slightly (five extra base hits out of 32 hits), Outman’s overall slash line and walk rates skyrocketed, as he went on to slash .309/.434/.471, walking 14 times (more than half of his total through the first three months of the season) and striking out 21 times.
Outman was able to find a more consistent power stroke in August, crushing five home runs in the month and driving in 15 runs. Outman for the second straight month registered an on base percentage of over .400, while posting a 2:1 strikeout to walk ratio. He won his second rookie of the month award, joining Cody Bellinger in 2017 as the only Dodgers to win two such awards.
September was the most unusual month for Outman. He struggled to collect base hits on a consistent basis, resulting in a .218 average, but continued to showcase his impressive on base abilities and connected for the same amount of home runs he had in the month of April.
Outman was a non-factor in the Dodgers’ NLDS defeat to the Diamondbacks, but it didn’t overshadow how impressive his rookie season was. Outman became the first rookie Dodger to connect for at least 20 home runs and steal 15 bases in the same season. His performance resulted in him finishing in third place for National League Rookie of the Year voting.
Stats: .248/.353/.437, 23 HR, 70 RBI, 16 SB, 68 BB, 86 R, 118 wRC+, 3.3 rWAR, 4.4 fWAR
Game of the year
When the Dodgers played their four-game series in Chicago against the Cubs, and former Dodger MVP Cody Bellinger, Outman stole the show throughout the series. On April 20, Outman smashed two home runs, including a go-ahead grand slam in the ninth inning off of Michael Fulmer, to give the Dodgers a 6-2 lead that they wouldn’t relinquish.
Outman became just the second player ever in MLB history to hit a grand slam in the ninth inning for their second home run of the game on the road, joining none other than Babe Ruth himself.
James Outman has one year, six days of major league service time, and has two option years remaining.