The Blue Jays' front office made a decision to upgrade the outfield defense over the offseason, and by all accounts they were successful. We'll start in left field, looking at who's going to get the Opening Day job and what options are available down the depth chart.
No. 1: Daulton Varsho
Daulton Varsho arrives in Toronto with big expectations placed on his shoulders from the beginning. Especially as he's replacing fan favorite Lourdes Gurriel Jr. as the starting left fielder.
As discussed in our season preview of Varsho, he's a massive defensive upgrade for the team. He led the majors in so many advanced defensive metrics in 2022 (Defensive Runs Saved, Range Runs, Ultimate Zone Rating, and Outs Above Average) it's a wonder the Diamondbacks were willing to part with him.
The dynamic 26-year-old is going into his fourth season poised for a big offensive year. Last season, he slashed .235/.302/.443 with 27 home runs, 79 runs, 74 RBI and 16 stolen bases. He'll benefit from the reconfigured Rogers Centre outfield dimensions and hitting in the heart of one of the best offenses in baseball.
No. 2: Whit Merrifield
It may seem odd to have the potential Opening Day second baseman listed as the next left fielder on the depth chart, but Whit Merrifield has equipped himself well as a versatile fielder that can play all over the diamond.
Going into his eighth season, Merrifield has made 38 appearances in left field over his career, including five after joining the Jays last season. As a bonus, he's never made an error out there. While 38 games doesn't seem like a lot over seven years, he's made 301 appearances across all three outfield positions, so he's comfortable no matter where he plays.
The 34-year-old will end up in the bottom third of the Blue Jays' deep lineup. Based on his performance last season, he likes batting down at the bottom of the order. After a sluggish season as the Royals' leadoff hitter, he turned it on when he finally got regular playing time in Toronto.
No. 3: Cavan Biggio
With no starting position to his name, Cavan Biggio comes into 2023 poised to be the Jays' super-utility player. The 27-year-old has had a strong spring, slashing .333/.379/.444 with a home run and a couple of RBI through 29 plate appearances.
He hasn't played much left field during his first four seasons in the majors, with five appearances to his name. But Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet reports that Biggio has told manager John Schneider that he can help the team more, "especially if he got consistent reps in the outfield."
While he has a right field backup role secured, there's reason to believe he'll play some left at some point this season, especially if it's only as an occasional fill-in. However, if there's an injury to cover for an extended period, the Jays may be forced to dive into their minor league depth.
Minor League Depth
After spending last season in Triple-A Buffalo, Nathan Lukes is battling for the fourth outfielder job with the big club. The 28-year-old has had a strong showing in Grapefruit League action and currently projects to grab the final bench spot.
So far this spring, Lukes has slashed .318/.360/.769 with a pair of doubles and three RBI in 18 at-bats. The seven-year minor leaguer has an interesting mix of speed and some pop in his bat. Last year he stole 20 bases with 11 home runs and 25 doubles.
Lukes split his time between the three outfield positions while playing for the Bisons in 2022, starting 18 in left, so if he breaks camp with the team, he'll eventually make his major league debut in one of the outfield spots.
Otto Lopez has had a strong showing in Spring Training thus far, sporting a .467/.529/.667 through six games and is representing Canada in the WBC, albeit as an infielder.
As noted in our season preview write-up, Lopez has experience all over the field, logging 22 games in left field last season in Triple-A. This versatility makes him an intriguing option for the final roster spot heading into the regular season. He's already had nine appearances in the majors, so if he starts the season in Buffalo, the Jays won't be afraid to call him up.
Primarily a first baseman, Spencer Horwitz played 10 games in left field for Buffalo last season and has been getting reps in the outfield in Spring Training. He's had a good showing in Grapefruit League action so far. He's not going to hit for much power, but he's demonstrated his ability to get on base with .357/.400/.357 slash line through six games.