The Blue Jays' fourth outfielder job already has a clear front runner in spring training

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

Many uncertainties surrounded the Blue Jays roster heading into spring training. We're only two weeks into spring training and the team may have already taken care of one of those. The last time they had four legitimate outfielders was in 2022, when they had Lourdes Gurriel Jr., George Springer, Teoscar Hernandez, and Raimel Tapia on the roster. In 2023, a group of players led by Whit Merrifield, Davis Schneider, and Cavan Biggio occupied the fourth-outfielder spot.

Heading into 2024, Nathan Lukes sure looks like a prime candidate to take over that spot. This spring, he's been nothing short of outstanding. In his first 6 Grapefruit League games, Lukes has accumulated seven hits, three for extra bases, three runs driven in, and three runs scored. He also leads the squad in batting average (.538) and on-base plus slugging (1.302). Even though this level of production is undoubtedly not sustainable over a full season, he could be very useful to this team in specific situations.

The Blue Jays could find him to be a great option off the bench or even as a starter against right-handed pitchers. In 2023, with the Blue Jays' Triple-A affiliate Buffalo Bisons, he slugged 1.028, hit 5 home runs and had a .399 batting average in only 173 at-bats. With the big league team, he had .227 batting average and slugged .627 in such at-bats (22 to be exact). Overall, he hit .366, with a .953 OPS, and a 149 wRC+ during the 2023 campaign in 202 at-bats in Triple-A.

Lukes is known to play strong defense in addition to being a league-average hitter. Last season, he totaled 67.2 innings played in the outfield. In those innings, he recorded 1 Defensive Run Saved, 0 Outs Above Average, a flawless fielding%, and didn't commit a single error. Lukes can also hold his own in the running department. In 2023, he ranked in the 52nd percentile in sprint speed.

If the Jays were to decide the season with a legitimate fourth outfielder, Nathan Lukes could definitely be their man. There is still time for things to go up or down for him, but as of now, he's done everything in his power to earn that spot.