Toronto Blue Jays 2023 Season Preview: OF Nathan Lukes
Next up in our 2023 Toronto Blue Jays season preview series is outfielder Nathan Lukes.
Addison Barger, Anthony Bass, Chris Bassitt, Brandon Belt, José Berríos, Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, Matt Chapman, Adam Cimber, Hagen Danner, Santiago Espinal, Matt Gage, Yimi García, Kevin Gausman,Chad Green, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Thomas Hatch, Spencer Horwitz, Danny Jansen, Leo Jimenez, Kevin Kiermaier, Yusei Kikuchi, Alejandro Kirk, Otto Lopez
Here's a quick refresher on the projection systems we're taking into account here and what they're saying about Lukes for the 2023 season.
STEAMER: 66 PA, 1 HR, 6 RBI, .237/.296/.350, 85 wRC+
ZiPS: 108 PA, 6 HR, 45 RBI, .248/.305/.358, 90 wRC+
2022 stats (Triple-A): 484 PA, 11 HR, 61 RBI, .285/.364/.425, 111 wRC+
*Editor's note: ZiPS projections include minor and major league innings but the performance estimates are all major-league level. Steamer projects only major league innings.
Lukes, 28, spent the 2022 season in Triple-A Buffalo, his first in the Blue Jays organization. He had previously been in the minor league systems of the Cleveland Indians/Guardians and the Tampa Bay Rays.
Interestingly, STEAMER does not predict Lukes will get much time in the big leagues in 2023. But when looking at FanGraphs' Roster Resource page, he is currently penciled in as the winner of the fourth and final bench spot entering the regular season.
On defense, he plays all three outfield spots at a well-above-average rate. In 2021, he did not commit a single error in over 663 innings and last season he made just two errors in 848+ innings.
At the plate, he swings it from the left side and while he has not shown much power over the years, he did manage to pass double-digits in home runs last year and stole 20 bases along the way. His blend of gap power, speed on the bases and elite defense makes him an intriguing candidate to perhaps make the Opening Day roster. At 28-years-old, he is hungrier than ever to get his elusive big league debut out of the way.
"I'm not a big home run hitter so my job is to get on base and let people drive me in. The big thing I always work on is keeping my barrel in the zone for as long as possible. In my opinion, the longer the bat stays in the zone, the bigger chance I have at succeeding and not walking back to the dugout with a strikeout", he told me in a recent conversation about how he looks to utilize his toolset to secure an Opening Day roster spot.
While Cavan Biggio, Whit Merrifield, Otto Lopez and Spencer Horwitz are also on the 40-man roster as outfield-capable players, Lukes believes it's all about taking advantage of the opportunities he is given, starting with his selection to the 40-man.
"I need to hit, get on base and do all the small things correctly. I just need the opportunity and to run with it. I believe the Blue Jays are giving me that start by adding me to the 40-man. Now it's my turn to capitalize on it."