Blue Jays: Does Ross Atkins have a problem with the 26th man on his rosters?

Detroit Tigers v Toronto Blue Jays
Detroit Tigers v Toronto Blue Jays / Mark Blinch/GettyImages

The Toronto Blue Jays have assembled one of the most talented rosters in Major League Baseball.    

From Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to Bo Bichette to Matt Chapman, theirs is a star-studded unit that is a legitimate World Series contender. 

While the front office duo of President Mark Shapiro and General Manager Ross Atkins have done well putting this team together, they have left much to be desired regarding the 26th man on the roster over the last couple of seasons. There just seems to be a never-ending revolving door here.

Blue Jays 26th man: Can anyone stick there?

Entering Spring Training this season, there weren’t many positions up for grabs. There was a supposed starter’s spot up for grabs and a competition for the final non-pitcher spot on the team.

Nathan Lukes won the latter with a strong camp and had a notable debut on Opening Day by coming in as a pinch-runner and scoring a run.

He’d be used as a late-game substitute twice before being sent down to Triple-A Buffalo to make room for Jordan Luplow, who was claimed off of waivers from the Atlanta Braves. Luplow came aboard with a reputation as a hitter who mashes left-handed pitchers in the past, but he had difficulty making any contact and struck out four times in seven plate appearances.

That was enough to send Luplow packing back down to Buffalo and to recall Lukes, who hasn’t looked overwhelmed in his limited playing time but is still looking for his first MLB hit after three fruitless at-bats. 

Last season, you may recall a pair of injuries that forced two call-ups and a similar lack of productivity. 

First, Danny Jansen’s IL stint meant the team needed another catcher, and Zack Collins was the next man up. At least he had an impressive two-week stretch from mid-to-late April (11/31 .355, 3 HR, 2 2B)  before crashing out and getting waived. 

Vinny Capra was also on the big-league club for some time last season after Cavan Biggio went down, but he didn’t seem to have the trust of the coaching staff and accumulated just five ABs over eight appearances with a single hit.

Raimel Tapia was acquired via trade before last season with the thought that his speed and aggressive approach at the plate might give the team a boost. Although he had his moments, notably his inside-the-park grand slam as part of a 28-5 romp at Fenway Park in July, he also didn’t have a significant impact and spent much of the season as a minus WAR player before finishing with a not-so-robust 0.3.

This is a somewhat disturbing trend of duds at the bottom of the roster. Part of it could be explained by the Jays’ star-heavy lineup that doesn’t leave much room for part-time players. But other organizations, such as the Rays and Dodgers, pride themselves on having 26 contributors on their rosters. It’s something Ross Atkins and Co. can certainly aspire to.