Blue Jays: The battle for the final spot on the active roster
At the end of Spring Training, there are 26 spots available for the Opening Day roster, which seems like a lot, but it really is not. Each team cannot have than 13 pitchers, which means there is also just 13 openings available for positional players. When looking at the current Blue Jays 40-man roster, there is likely just one spot open for someone to come in and snag it.
As things currently stand, the Blue Jays have what should be considered ten position players that are absolute locks to make the club: Danny Jansen, Alejandro Kirk, Brandon Belt, Bo Bichette, Matt Chapman, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Kevin Kiermaier, Whit Merrifield, George Springer and Daulton Varsho.
Cavan Biggio and Santiago Espinal are close to locks but nothing is guaranteed in their case. The only way I can see either player not being there on March 30 is if one of those two players are traded.
Here is a look at the players that are likely competing for the final roster spot, unless Ross Atkins goes out and acquires a player by way of a trade or free agency.
Otto López: The 25-year old López has been with the organization since he was 17 and made his MLB debut in 2021. Throughout 2022, he had very brief call-ups but never got his first at bat of the season until October. In three games over the final week, López went 6 for 9 with three RBI and a walk. He came through the system as a middle infielder, but showed his versatility by making 38 appearances in the outfield (22 LF, 16 CF) with the Buffalo Bisons last year.
Orelvis Martinez: The most exciting player to push for a roster spot is Martinez, who just turned 21 this past November. He was nearly four years younger than the average aged player in Double-A last season, yet he still hit 30 home runs. Unfortunately, despite the home run power, he posted a .732 OPS due to his inability to get on base outside of the home run. He walked just 40 times and had just 58 hits that weren’t home runs in 492 plate appearances. Martinez is still very young and I would suggest having him start at Double-A is likely better for his development.
Addison Barger: A former sixth-round pick in 2018, Addison Barger had a breakout season in 2022 as he played at three levels of baseball which amounted to 61 extra base hits (26 home runs). While he only played in eight games at Buffalo, he did post an OPS of 1.122 over 36 plate appearances. Barger will likely get a long look in Spring, but when it ends he’ll start his season at Triple-A.
Spencer Horwitz: This 25-year old has steadily increased through the system and after posting a .930 OPS in New Hampshire last year, he was called-up to Triple-A Buffalo. The first baseman will likely never make the Blue Jays at that position thanks to the presence of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., so he has learned a bit of outfield over the last couple of seasons and started 20 games in left field last year. Like Barger, Horwitz will get a long look in Spring Training and receive several at bats, but at this time he won't be makig the big club.
Nathan Lukes: Nathan Lukes has been a career minor leaguer that is still trying to make his MLB debut and will turn 29 during the season. He had a strong season in Triple-A Buffalo last year posting a .364 on base percentage while stealing 20 bases. Lukes could be a low-maintenance player that the club could add as they wouldn’t be worried about stunting his growth if he got very limited playing time. Think of the role that Bradley Zimmer had in 2022.
Rob Brantly: Brantly is a 33-year old catcher that earned a minor league contract with an invite to Spring Training from the Blue Jays in early January. With Gabriel Moreno gone, the club likely needs an additional catcher in Spring Training to ease the workload of Jansen and Kirk before the season even starts. The Blue Jays catchers have had injury problems in the past, which is the only way Brantly would see his name on the Opening Day Roster.
The last roster spot appears to be down to either López or Lukes. López impressed in his very brief stint at the end of last season, while Lukes has still yet to ss his name on a big league scorecard. In López, the club could have a similar player to Espinal with a bit more versatility. However, they likely want to keep developing him as an outfielder. Lukes could play a very similar role to what Zimmer had in 2022 and with his age creeping closer to 30, management would not worry about developing him. My feeling is at this point, Lukes will likely be the player with the final roster spot.