WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Dusty Baker has been the manager of the Astros for only a few weeks and is still getting to know all his players. He’s spent much of the spring trying to put names with faces and learn as much as he can about the Astros,
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Dusty Baker has been the manager of the Astros for only a few weeks and is still getting to know all his players. He’s spent much of the spring trying to put names with faces and learn as much as he can about the Astros, who are considered one of baseball’s best teams entering 2020.
The Astros will return their core four homegrown star players -- José Altuve, George Springer, Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa -- this season, along with starting pitchers Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke and several other key pieces from a team that was eight outs from winning its second World Series championship in three seasons.
Houston will have to put its offseason turmoil from the sign-stealing scandal in the past as it tries to win its fourth consecutive American League West title and become the first team in history to win at least 100 games four years in a row. So let’s take another stab at predicting what Houston’s '20 Opening Day roster might look like.
• Forecasting all 30 teams: Lineups, rotations, closers
Locks: Martín Maldonado, Dustin Garneau
Possibilities: Garrett Stubbs
The Astros re-signed Maldonado to a two-year contract after trading for him in each of the past two seasons. Houston signed Garneau in November, meaning Maldonado and Garneau will handle most of the catching duties. Stubbs could force his way onto the roster as a third catcher considering rosters will expand to 26 this year and he can play some outfield, as well as taking up some infield this spring.
Locks: Yuli Gurriel
Gurriel is back after having the best season of his career, during which he hit .298 with 31 homers and 104 RBIs and was named a Gold Glove Award finalist at first base. Thanks to a unique clause in his contract, Gurriel renegotiated his salary for 2020 to be worth $8.3 million, up from $8 million, with an opportunity to earn $250,000 more in bonuses. As was determined when he signed his original five-year, $47.5 million deal in '16, he will become a free agent after the 2020 season.
Altuve rebounded from right knee surgery to have a strong season, hitting .298 with 31 homers and 74 RBIs. He led the AL in hits and total bases after the All-Star break. Altuve signed a long-term contract extension prior to the 2018 season.
Correa played in only 75 games after two stints on the injured list with a fractured rib (May 29-July 26) and back discomfort (Aug. 21-Sept. 17), but he produced when he was healthy, hitting .279 with 21 homers and 59 RBIs. Correa has two more years of team control before he hits free agency.
Bregman had an MVP Award-type season, batting .296 with 41 homers, 112 RBIs, 119 walks and only 83 strikeouts. He led the AL in walks and was second in on-base percentage (.423). Bregman signed a five-year contract extension prior to the 2019 season.
Locks: Aledmys Díaz
Díaz played in only 69 games in 2019, but he started 18 games at first, 16 at second, 15 at third, three in left and two at shortstop. He hit .271 with nine homers and 40 RBIs.
Locks: Michael Brantley, George Springer, Josh Reddick, Kyle Tucker
Possibilities: Myles Straw
The Astros traded Jake Marisnick to create some room in a crowded outfield that now includes Tucker, the former prospect who figures to battle Reddick for playing time in right field this season. Reddick is in the final year of his contract, and the Astros are ready to move forward with Tucker. The Astros could choose to use the 26th man on the roster to carry an extra outfielder, which would be good news for Straw, as he would step into Marisnick’s speed/defense role, and he can also play shortstop.
Locks: Yordan Alvarez
Alvarez, the 2019 AL Rookie of the Year, will return for his first full season in the big leagues after hitting .313 with 27 homers and 78 RBIs in only 87 games. He could see more time in the outfield this year, too.
Locks: Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke, Lance McCullers Jr.,Jose Urquidy
Possibilities: Josh James, Austin Pruitt
McCullers is back after missing the entire 2019 season following Tommy John surgery, and Urquidy will be given a chance to build on his breakout season. With Brad Peacock behind in his throwing program with a neck/shoulder injury that surfaced last year, the race for the final spot in the rotation is likely between James and newcomer Pruitt.
Locks: Roberto Osuna, Ryan Pressly, Joe Smith, Joe Biagini, Brad Peacock, Chris Devenski
Possibilities: Bryan Abreu, Framber Valdez, Blake Taylor, Cionel Pérez, Jared Hughes, Cy Sneed, James, Pruitt
The Astros took a big step toward bolstering their bullpen by re-signing Smith in December, putting him with Osuna and Pressly -- both former All-Stars -- at the back end. Biagini and Devenski will be looking to bounce back from subpar seasons last year, but both provide depth. The Astros, who didn’t have a lefty on their pitching staff in the playoffs, acquired 24-year-old left-handed pitcher Blake Taylor from the Mets in the Marisnick deal, and he is seemingly set to compete for a spot in the bullpen this year.
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.