Originally published by DodgerBlue.com
Baseball players are undoubtedly the most superstitious athletes, and Los Angeles Dodgers prospect James Outman is no different.
Sitting at the top of Outman’s locker is a rock with a face drawn onto it in black Sharpie. It started when one of Outman’s teammates in Triple-A gave it to him, and he’s just kept it around to bring him good luck.
The rock even has a name, “Rocka.”
“He said it’s going to bring you hits,” Outman recalled of the message from his teammate. “So I was like, ‘Alright, let’s do it.’ And ever since then it’s just kind of been in the locker.”
Rocka seemed to work as Outman hit well while with Triple-A Oklahoma City last season. In 57 games, he batted .292/.390/.627 with 15 home runs, 42 runs scored, 61 RBI and a 144 wRC+.
Oklahoma City pitchers, on the other hand, weren’t so effective, posting a team 4.87 ERA in more than 1,300 innings.
“My teammate was like, ‘Hey, this used to be for the pitchers, but we started giving up too many hits, so he’s good for hitting now,’” Outman said. “I was like, ‘Cool, I’ll take it.’”
Outman will look for Rocka to help him continue his success at the Major League level. Last season, Outman made his MLB debut and was highly impressive across four games, hitting .462/.563/.846 with one home runs, six runs scored, three RBI and a 288 wRC+.
This year, the left-handed hitter is competing for a spot on the Dodgers Opening Day roster, and could even find his way in a starting role. The Dodgers are still undecided on who will start in center field, but Outman is competing with Jason Heyward and Trayce Thompson for playing time.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts expressed confidence in Outman’s ability as a center fielder, and scouts have never questioned his defense as. The questions with Outman were always about his bat, and he seems to have figured it out over the past few seasons.
The ACL tear Gavin Lux suffered has also increased Outman’s potential role, and the club may need him to step up this season.
Their versatility will allow them to get any player they want into the lineup, and they may end up needing offensive production if Thompson’s downtrend continues or Heyward’s new swing doesn’t work as hoped.
James Outman balances data and being ‘loose’
The Dodgers organization has been at the front of the analytics movement, and Outman has utilized that to his advantage.
However, the 25-year-old has also balanced that by not letting it get into his mind too much and remembering to be loose and fluid at the plate.
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