As he walked off one of the Camelback Ranch backfields Monday morning, Dodgers triple-A manager Travis Barbary crossed paths with outfield prospect James Outman.
“Have a day, Outty!” Barbary exclaimed, fresh off watching the highly touted 25-year-old crush three home runs in a live batting practice session.
“I got one more, right?” Outman asked, jokingly.
Barbary laughed and shook his head.
“No,” he said, glancing over the distant outfield fence Outman had repeatedly cleared with ease. “There’s no more balls left.”
Chalk it up as the latest stellar moment of Outman’s standout spring — yet another resounding statement in the young slugger’s bid to make the Dodgers’ opening day team.
Coming into the season, Outman was seen as the top outfielder in the club’s system, but a player who could still benefit from more minor league seasoning.
He was, after all, just a few seasons removed from a massive overhaul of his mechanics. He’d logged only 212 career at-bats in triple A, not reaching the minors’ highest level until midway through last season.
And though he’d impressed in a brief debut in the majors last July — hitting a home run in his first at-bat and going six for 13 in four games overall — he’d also struck out seven times, a sign that holes remained in his revamped swing.
Still, that initial taste gave Outman a renewed craving for the big leagues.
“When he came back down … I asked him, ‘How was it?’ ” Barbary, who manages the organization’s Oklahoma City affiliate, recalled this winter. “And he said, ‘All I want to do is get back, and I’m going to do whatever it takes.’ And he played great the rest of the year.”
Outman closed the campaign on a tear, posting a .293 batting average, 1.018 on-base-plus-slugging percentage and 15 home runs in triple A, while hitting for two cycles within the span of a week. He finished with 31 homers and 106 RBIs in 125 games.
That strong finish has carried over to the spring.
In 23 Cactus League at-bats, Outman has nine hits — four of them for extra bases, two of them as no-doubt homers. He’s driven in eight runs. And he’s struck out only six times, adding three walks for an on-base-percentage of nearly .500.
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