A lot has been written about the breakout of young Dodgers outfielder James Outman. He has been off to an outstanding start to the 2023 fantasy baseball season and has shown limited signs of slowing down. Going into the weekend slate, the 25-year old has performed as a top 20 hitter on the Razzball Player Rater. Sitting on pace for over 35 homers and 100 R and RBI, he has been a revelation for owners. This week, we will focus our hitter profiles on identifying what in Outman’s background has produced a valuable fantasy asset through the first month of the season. In addition, we will scour the minors to see if we can find any players that fit the same mold for us to invest in for the rest of the 2023 fantasy season.
- Pedigree – Outman was a seventh round draft pick in 2018 coming out of Sacramento State. In college, he displayed strong power along with struggles in the batting average department. Coming into the 2023 season, Outman had a total of four games at the Major League level. Even with a sizzling debut, he hardly cracked any top 100 prospect lists in the 2023 preseason. Ultimately, Outman was a top 20 organizational prospect but the pedigree was simply fringe top 100 prospect. For us, this means he was always seen to have potential but was far from a sure thing.
- Minor League Success – Outman was a relatively consistent performer throughout the minors working his way from rookie ball in 2018 to AAA last year. He was slightly older than many top prospects but right at average for the level. Across the minors, his calling card was generally power with a little speed as he averaged nearly 30 homers and 25 steals per 150 games. As with many prospects, the speed dropped off in the upper levels to a degree. Over the last few years, Outman has been a .290 hitter, but his hit tool has been a question for many evaluators. A strong walk rate of over 10% was also accompanied by a strikeout rate north of 25%, which has carried over into the majors with a 30%+ rate of whiffs. Overall, he has had a healthy minor league resume which on many other teams would have been called upon earlier.
- Team Offensive Production – One aspect of Outman’s value this season has been his ability to produce and fill the box score. Being on pace to eclipse 100 runs and RBI each is no small feat, although some could argue it is simply a hot month. The one thing that cannot be argued is the offensive support sitting around Outman in Los Angeles. A top 5 offense at this point in 2023, we can confidently say that LA will be top 10 the rest of the way helping the counting stats.
James Outman has been a valuable fantasy asset in part due to the supporting cast, but his results should not be too surprising as he was always a positive contributor in the minors. He does have a fly ball heavy profile and questions about his hit tool, so we should not expect the current level of production the full season. The strikeout habits have not hurt him too much at this point, but even within the month of April he has been prone to small cold streaks. Those will creep up the rest of the season, but overall James Outman looks to be a valuable piece of fantasy lineups settling in as an OF3.
Mining for the next Outman!
To find young players that fit the profile, we have to mine strong offensive teams for solid performing prospects that are on the periphery of the prospect hounds. These are players that have gone a bit under the radar and do not show up as young phenoms but average age for their minor league levels capping out at AAA ball. So no Jordan Walker or Anthony Volpe types here. With that, here are my best bets to go Outman!
- Jordan Westburg – Sitting at number 67 on MLB’s top 100 list, Westburg is the only name on this list that cracked the top 100. He checks in at 24-years old and plays in the Baltimore system checking in with the ninth best offense in the majors for producing runs. In 2023, he has popped five homers with three steals with a .315 average. Over the past two season, he has paced for over 30 homers in a season with strikeout rates in the low twenties. Westburg has played all over the diamond this year in AAA and should be bringing him .900+ OPS to the majors this summer.
- Christopher Morel – While Morel, 24-years old, didn’t crack many top 100 lists, he was a top 10 prospect for the Cubs when eligible prior to the 2022 season. While he did play 113 games for the Cubs last year, he was held back by his strikeouts at 32% and too many ground balls. However, his strikeout rates were more in the 25-30% rate in the minors with a more drastic fly ball profile. Already with ten homers and four steals to pair with a .345 average, he is off to a hot start this season. All of that added to a surprisingly top 10 offensive in Chicago could be a nice boost for fantasy owners when he cracks the lineup.
- Matt McLain – Cheating a little bit with McLain, where the Reds are merely an average run producing team, we have to give a Great America Ballpark boost to McLain. Only 23-years old, McLain is solidly in the top 10 prospects for the Reds and producing a seven homer and seven steal AAA season so far in 2023. He did drop his strikeout rate to the low twenties this season with his walk rate improving paired with a very fly ball approach. While some evaluators believe he will struggle with the high heat in the majors, he seems to have a situation set up for success.