WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- We took a shot at predicting the Astros’ 25-man roster for Opening Day a few weeks ago before camp opened. With spring camp about at the halfway point, not much has changed for the deep and talented Astros.
An early camp injury to rotation candidate Josh James has left Brad Peacock and Framber Valdez as the two frontrunners for the fifth spot in the rotation, and manager AJ Hinch said the club is likely to carry an extra position player as opposed to an extra pitcher, meaning Tony Kemp and Tyler White are set to make the Opening Day roster.
Let’s revisit how the 25-man roster could look on Opening Day:
What changed? Nothing. Chirinos and Stassi are in line to be the only two catchers on the Opening Day roster, though I wouldn’t rule out entirely the Astros trying to explore the market later in the spring to bring in another catcher. Prospect Garrett Stubbs remains knocking at the door, but he’s not in the mix for Opening Day.
First base (1): Yuli Gurriel
What changed? Nothing. Gurriel remains an integral part of the lineup, though he doesn’t command the attention of George Springer, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa or newcomer Michael Brantley. He’s a dangerous hitter and has developed into a solid first baseman defensively.
Second base (1): José Altuve
What changed? Nothing. Altuve figures to be the Astros’ starting second baseman for years to come after signing a long contract extension last year. He came to camp still recovering from surgery in October to repair a broken kneecap and appears to have his legs under him once again.
Third base (1): Alex Bregman
What changed? Nothing. Bregman, the Astros’ MVP a year ago, is starting to get some preseason American League MVP love, which isn’t a stretch. He says he feels better physically than he has in years considering he had surgery on Jan. 11 to remove bone chips in his right elbow. If he remains healthy, he could push 100 runs, 200 hits, 50 doubles, 30 homers, 100 walks and 100 RBIs. That would put him in the MVP hunt.
Shortstop (1): Carlos Correa
What changed? Nothing. Hampered by back problems in the second half of last season, Correa was crushing the ball early in camp, a great sign for the Astros. He hit a career-low .239 last year with 15 homers and 65 RBIs in only 110 games, but seems to have found his 2017 form. If so, look out.
What changed? Hinch said early in camp that the Astros were likely to carry an extra outfielder as opposed to the extra pitcher he normally carries. That’s good news for Kemp, who was battling with infielder Tyler White for the final roster spot. It seems now they’ll both make it. And both are out of options, too, which will factor into the decision.
What changed? White, barring an injury, appears to be a lock to make the club considering Hinch wants to carry the extra position player. He had an .888 OPS in 66 games with the Astros last year and is a good hitter. Expect many of his at-bats to come at DH.
What changed? The hard-throwing James came down with a quad injury early in camp, putting him out of the running for the fifth starter. That means Peacock is battling with Valdez, but Peacock had a great season as a starter in 2017 and Valdez is still refining his command. Expect Peacock to win the final spot.
So here’s a look at the likely 25-man Opening Day roster:
RHP Lance McCullers Jr.
RHP Joe Smith
RHP Francis Martes