Dodgers farm director Will Rhymes doesn’t want to use the word “project.” But he knew when Los Angeles drafted outfielder James Outman out of Sacramento State in the seventh round in 2018 that there was work to be done.
“We saw a tremendous amount of ability on both sides of the ball,” Rhymes said. “His swing was a little bit—something we knew we had to dive in on as a group from Day One. We took that to James and he went to work right away on the offensive side.
“I think we saw the upside offensively as massive with more kind of plug-and-play defensive skills.”
Outman is considered by many to be MLB ready on defense. Rhymes said there were a lot of good components to his lefthanded swing.
“I think if you looked under the hood, his decision-making is high end. I mean top of the charts, as is the quality of contact,” Rhymes said. “So the components were there.”
Outman and the Dodgers’ hitting coaches went to work on his swing, refining his mechanics to handle professional pitching and, in particular, syncing his lower body with his upper half.
“It’s been impressive to watch someone just continue to dive in and truly understand his swing and what he’s trying to do and continually refine it,” Rhymes said. “Usually development isn’t so linear, but he’s been steadily getting better and better.”
After a slow start at High-A Great Lakes this year, the 24-year-old Outman got it going in July and carried that over after being promoted to Double-A Tulsa later in the month. On the season, he hit .266/.379/.490 with 18 home runs and 23 stolen bases in 104 games.
That success continued in the early stages of the Arizona Fall League.
“He came to us with those components, and he’s been incredibly serious and curious about his swing,” Rhymes said, “and he’s been the main driver for the adjustments.
“The way he’s wired has been very impressive to watch. It’s the reason he’s made so much progress.”
— In order to add third baseman Andy Burns to their postseason roster when Justin Turner suffered a hamstring injury, the Dodgers had to clear a 40-man roster spot. Righthander Edwin Uceta was designated for assignment. Uceta posted a 6.64 ERA over 14 appearances with the Dodgers but spent most of the season with Triple-A Oklahoma City, where he had a 4.71 ERA.
— The Dodgers named third baseman Miguel Vargas and righthander Hyun-il Choi the organization’s minor league player and pitcher of the year. The award is named after Branch Rickey. Vargas hit a combined .319 with 23 home runs at High-A Great Lakes and Double-A Tulsa. Choi recorded a 3.17 ERA and 0.83 WHIP at Low-A Rancho Cucamonga before ending the season at Great Lakes.