Blue Jays: Nathan Lukes has made the Opening Day roster
By Eric Treuden
Nathan Lukes has made the Toronto Blue Jays' Opening Day roster.
At 28-years-old, Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Nathan Lukes has finally realized his goal: he has made the 2023 Opening Day roster. The longtime minor league veteran is going to be on the club as its fourth outfielder behind Daulton Varsho, Kevin Kiermaier and George Springer.
In a corresponding move, utilitymen Vinny Capra and Otto Lopez have been sent to the minor leagues, where they should begin the year on the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons.
Capra, 26, is not on the 40-man roster but was able to make his big league debut last year for the club, making it into a handful of games. In 2023 Spring Training, his .190 batting average isn't anything to write home about but he'd drove in seven runs and walked eight times against just three strikeouts. He may be back as the regular season marches on.
Lopez, 24, was seen as Lukes' biggest competition for the final bench spot. He is a speedy utilityman who can play virtually anywhere on the diamond, giving the Jays yet another swiss army knife type of player that they love so much. He doesn't have much pop to speak of, but has excellent bat-to-ball skills and has some serious wheels.
Instead, it will be Lukes, who has been putting on a show in spring games this year. In 18 appearances, he went 12-for-42 (.286 average) with two doubles, two triples, six runs batted in and four walks. He plays above-average defense at all three spots in the outfield grass and has also displayed quite a bit of gap power throughout his minor league career.
The longtime Tampa Bay Rays farmhand spent all of last year on the Bisons' roster, getting into 111 games, hitting 25 doubles and 11 home runs, scoring 62 runs, driving in 61 of his own, and even stealing 20 bases along the way.
Lukes' presence on the roster should allow Whit Merrifield and Cavan Biggio to focus more on playing the infield than the outfield. Both players are second basemen by trade and they were projected to get considerable time in the outfield without a true fourth outfielder present on the roster.