Blue Jays – Outfielder Nathan Lukes is putting together a strong bid for an Opening Day roster spot

Photo credit:© Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Tyson Shushkewich
1 month ago
So far this spring, the focus and attention for the Blue Jays has primarily been on the pitching staff (who is pitching well and who has shoulder fatigue) and the array of infielders who are fighting for a chance to break camp when Toronto opens the season later this month in Tampa Bay.
With all this going on, outfielder Nathan Lukes has quietly put together a strong spring showing through the first few weeks, a showcase that could see him force the coaching staff to make some tough decisions as the weeks go by if he continues to put the ball in play.
This isn’t the first time Lukes has been fighting for a spot on the Opening Day roster, with the 2024 season being his ninth big league spring training camp since being drafted by Cleveland back in 2015.

Nathan Lukes is quietly putting together a strong spring that could see him break camp with the Blue Jays

Last year, the Minor League veteran finally broke through and earned a spot in the big leagues to start the year, becoming the Jays’ fourth outfielder.
His first few appearances on the diamond came off the bench as a pinch-runner before he was optioned back to Buffalo, only to be brought back ten days later and get his first at-bat against the Houston Astros on April 17th (a flyout to centre field). His first big league hit would come over a month later, a single to centre field off Baltimore Orioles pitcher Dean Kramer.
In his first season at the Major League level, the Blue Jays used Lukes sparingly off the bench while he rode the options bus between Toronto and Buffalo. He would finish the campaign with a .192/.290/.308 slash while going 5 for 26 at the plate through 29 games. He added one double and one triple to the tune of a .598 OPS while also adding two RBIs and four walks compared to nine strikeouts. Defensively, the Sacramento State product spent most of his time in right field but had a few innings in the other two outfield spots as well, boasting a clean fielding percentage and one outfield assist.
With the 2024 season just a few weeks away, Lukes is back in familiar territory in terms of fighting for a big league roster spot.
Through six games and 13 at-bats, the 29-year-old has seven hits (.538) while adding one walk and three RBIs compared to three strikeouts, putting forth a 1.302 OPS. Lukes also has three doubles on his resume and another three runs while splitting time in centre and right field for the Jays. At the plate, Lukes has been routinely breaking the 90 MPH mark with his exit velocity and has three multi-hit games this spring.
It’s a small sample size but Lukes is doing all the right things this spring, especially since the Blue Jays could use another left-handed bat on the roster given the right-handed dominance that takes up most of the batting order regularly.
This spring, Lukes is facing some extensive competition for what is limited space on the Jays bench, as Davis Schneider has started to get some reps in left field, a mould of the same role Whit Merrifield played splitting time between second base and the outfield corner spot that could impact Lukes’s role on the squad. As well, non-roster invite Daniel Vogelbach has been getting a long look this spring and could be a left-handed bat option off the bench for the Jays heading into the new year.
These two players combined with middle infield options like Ernie Clement, Orelvis Martinez, Addison Barger, and Leo Jimenez and the addition of Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who can play in the outfield corner spots as needed along with mainstay Cavan Biggio, will make it tough for Lukes to stand out, especially since he has a Minor League option at his disposal.
Nevertheless, Lukes has been putting together a string of solid at-bats and could play himself into a roster spot if the Jays are looking to add a fourth bonafide outfielder to the roster to start the season. There are still a few weeks left for things to go either up or down for Lukes and his teammates but so far, he is putting forth the right numbers to at least keep himself in the conversation.


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