Blue Jays manager John Schneider informed reporters, including Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet, than outfielder Nathan Lukes has made the club’s Opening Day roster.
Lukes, 28, will be making his major league debut as soon as he gets into a game. A 2015 seventh-rounder, Lukes has spent eight years in the minors, going from Cleveland to Tampa Bay in the 2016 trade that sent Brandon Guyer the other way. He reached Triple-A by 2019, then saw the minor leagues get cancelled by the pandemic in 2020. He spent another year at Durham in 2021 but wasn’t given a roster spot and reached minor league free agency after that season.
Lukes signed a minor league deal with the Jays last year and impressed them enough that they added him to their 40-man roster in November. He’s never been a top prospect because he doesn’t really have a standout tool, but he does seem to do a bit of everything with some success. For the Bisons last year, he hit 11 home runs and stole 20 bases, walking in 9.7% of his plate appearances while limiting strikeouts to an 18.4% clip. His .285/.364/.425 batting line amounted to a wRC+ of 111, and he spent time at all three outfield positions.
The Blue Jays previously had a very right-handed heavy lineup but have addressed that imbalance this winter. Righties Teoscar Hernandez and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. were traded while lefties Daulton Varsho and Kevin Kiermaier were brought aboard. That puts a bit less importance on the left-handed bat of Lukes, though he does give the club a true fourth outfielder, perhaps allowing Whit Merrifield and Cavan Biggio to stay on the infield more often that not.
Some other notes from around the AL East…
- The Yankees have reassigned right-hander Ian Hamilton, who was in camp on a minor league deal, to Triple-A. Per Joel Sherman of The New York Post (Twitter links), Hamilton has the ability to opt out of his deal and return to free agency, but agreed to move his opt-out date to April 5. Hamilton had a nice spring, tossing nine scoreless innings while striking out six batters and walking three. It seems the club doesn’t have room for him on Opening Day, but their bullpen depth is a concern. Tommy Kahnle and Lou Trivino suffered injuries during spring and will be starting the season on the injured list. Since starters Carlos Rodon, Frankie Montas and Luis Severino are also starting the season on the IL, the weakened rotation will put extra pressure on the bullpen. Hamilton will stick with the organization for at least one extra week to see if his services are needed, but he could wind up back on the open market after that. He spent most of last year at Triple-A in the Twins’ organization, posting a 1.88 ERA with a 32.1% strikeout rate, 7.1% walk rate and 51.6% ground ball rate.
- The Red Sox will need to find a roster spot for outfielder Raimel Tapia, who is going to make the club’s Opening Day roster. There’s still nothing official but Julian McWilliams of The Boston Globe reports that the corresponding move for Tapia could be infielder Adalberto Mondesi going on the 60-day injured list. Mondesi, 27, has shown tremendous talent in his career but is also frequently injured. He only played 15 games last year before being diagnosed with a torn ACL in late April that required surgery. Mondesi was expected to miss some of the start of the season but a trip to the 60-day IL would prevent him from returning until late May. The Sox picked him up from the Royals in a January trade sending lefty Josh Taylor to Kansas City. At the time, the hope was that he could help provide some middle infield cover in the wake of Trevor Story’s elbow surgery. Mondesi is in his final season of club control before reaching free agency for the first time.