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Where Astros' Top 30 prospects are starting season

MLB.com

With the 2018 season getting started, here's a look at where the Astros' Top 30 prospects are starting the season:

1. Forrest Whitley (MLB No. 9), RHP -- Suspended
2. Kyle Tucker (MLB No. 16), OF -- Fresno Grizzlies (AAA)
3. J.B. Bukauskas (MLB No. 77), RHP -- Quad Cities River Bandits (A)
4. Yordan Alvarez, OF/1B -- Corpus Christi Hooks (AA)
5. Freudis Nova, SS/3B -- Extended spring training
6. Cionel Perez, LHP -- Corpus Christi Hooks (AA)
7. Jorge Alcala, RHP -- Buies Creek Astros (A Adv)
8. David Paulino, RHP -- Fresno Grizzlies (AAA)
9. J.D. Davis, 3B -- Houston Astros (MLB)
10. Corbin Martin, RHP -- Buies Creek Astros (A Adv)
11. Hector Perez, RHP -- Buies Creek Astros (A Adv)
12. Rogelio Armenteros, RHP -- Fresno Grizzlies (AAA)
13. Jairo Solis, RHP -- Extended spring training
14. Joe Perez, 3B -- Extended spring training
15. Ronnie Dawson, OF -- Buies Creek Astros (A Adv)
16. Framber Valdez, LHP -- Corpus Christi Hooks (AA)
17. Drew Ferguson, OF -- Fresno Grizzlies (AAA)
18. Dean Deetz, RHP -- Suspended
19. Cristian Javier, RHP -- Quad Cities River Bandits (A)
20. Riley Ferrell, RHP -- Corpus Christi Hooks (AA)
21. Myles Straw, OF -- Corpus Christi Hooks (AA)
22. Jonathan Arauz, SS -- Quad Cities River Bandits (A)
23. Gilberto Celestino, OF -- Extended spring training
24. Garrett Stubbs, C -- Fresno Grizzlies (AAA)
25. J.J. Matijevic, OF -- Quad Cities River Bandits (A)
26. Jandel Gustave, RHP -- Houston Astros (MLB) -- DL
27. Chuckie Robinson, C -- Buies Creek Astros (A Adv)
28. Brett Adcock, LHP -- Buies Creek Astros (A Adv)
29. Abraham Toro-Hernandez, 3B/C -- Buies Creek Astros (A Adv)
30. Brandon Bailey, RHP -- Buies Creek Astros (A Adv)

With the 2018 season getting started, here's a look at where the Astros' Top 30 prospects are starting the season:

1. Forrest Whitley (MLB No. 9), RHP -- Suspended
2. Kyle Tucker (MLB No. 16), OF -- Fresno Grizzlies (AAA)
3. J.B. Bukauskas (MLB No. 77), RHP -- Quad Cities River Bandits (A)
4. Yordan Alvarez, OF/1B -- Corpus Christi Hooks (AA)
5. Freudis Nova, SS/3B -- Extended spring training
6. Cionel Perez, LHP -- Corpus Christi Hooks (AA)
7. Jorge Alcala, RHP -- Buies Creek Astros (A Adv)
8. David Paulino, RHP -- Fresno Grizzlies (AAA)
9. J.D. Davis, 3B -- Houston Astros (MLB)
10. Corbin Martin, RHP -- Buies Creek Astros (A Adv)
11. Hector Perez, RHP -- Buies Creek Astros (A Adv)
12. Rogelio Armenteros, RHP -- Fresno Grizzlies (AAA)
13. Jairo Solis, RHP -- Extended spring training
14. Joe Perez, 3B -- Extended spring training
15. Ronnie Dawson, OF -- Buies Creek Astros (A Adv)
16. Framber Valdez, LHP -- Corpus Christi Hooks (AA)
17. Drew Ferguson, OF -- Fresno Grizzlies (AAA)
18. Dean Deetz, RHP -- Suspended
19. Cristian Javier, RHP -- Quad Cities River Bandits (A)
20. Riley Ferrell, RHP -- Corpus Christi Hooks (AA)
21. Myles Straw, OF -- Corpus Christi Hooks (AA)
22. Jonathan Arauz, SS -- Quad Cities River Bandits (A)
23. Gilberto Celestino, OF -- Extended spring training
24. Garrett Stubbs, C -- Fresno Grizzlies (AAA)
25. J.J. Matijevic, OF -- Quad Cities River Bandits (A)
26. Jandel Gustave, RHP -- Houston Astros (MLB) -- DL
27. Chuckie Robinson, C -- Buies Creek Astros (A Adv)
28. Brett Adcock, LHP -- Buies Creek Astros (A Adv)
29. Abraham Toro-Hernandez, 3B/C -- Buies Creek Astros (A Adv)
30. Brandon Bailey, RHP -- Buies Creek Astros (A Adv)

Astros prospect coverage | Astros Top 30 prospects stats

Team to watch
Double-A Corpus Christi boasts the best hitter/pitcher combination in the system with precocious outfielder/first baseman Yordan Alvarez and left-hander Cionel Perez. Alvarez batted .304/.379/.481 between two Class A clubs, and he played in the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game during his U.S. debut, while Perez made four starts for the Hooks to conclude his first year in the States. Right-hander Forrest Whitley, baseball's top pitching prospect in the Minors, likely will join them once he serves a 50-game suspension for violating the Minor League drug program.

Where baseball's top prospects are starting the 2018 season

Teams on MiLB.TV
Fresno Grizzlies
Corpus Christi Hooks
Quad Cities River Bandits

New faces
Right-hander Brandon Bailey recorded 120 whiffs in 91 innings with two Class A teams in the Athletics' system last year, then came to the Astros in a November trade for outfield prospect Ramon Laureano. Third baseman Perez, a second-round pick last June, won't make his pro debut until this summer. He hit 98 mph with his fastball and drew interest as a pitcher last spring before having Tommy John surgery, and Houston believes in his offensive upside.

On the shelf
Besides Whitley, right-hander Deetz also is out with a suspension (80 games) after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance. Right-hander Gustave is on the big league disabled list as he continues his comeback from Tommy John surgery last June.

Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

Houston Astros

Astros prospect Tucker preps for Minors duty

Gurriel hopes to avoid stint on DL to open regular season
MLB.com

HOUSTON -- So what's next for outfielder Kyle Tucker following his monster Spring Training with the Astros? The club has yet to say whether Tucker will begin the regular season at Double-A Corpus Christi -- where he finished last year -- or Triple-A Fresno.

"He's not starting in the big leagues," manager AJ Hinch said before Tuesday's 8-1 win over the Brewers in an exhibition game. "That's pretty clear, but he's had a remarkable spring, and a very good impact and a good impression. His time is coming. It's not right now. No matter where he starts, the plan for him will remain the same."

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HOUSTON -- So what's next for outfielder Kyle Tucker following his monster Spring Training with the Astros? The club has yet to say whether Tucker will begin the regular season at Double-A Corpus Christi -- where he finished last year -- or Triple-A Fresno.

"He's not starting in the big leagues," manager AJ Hinch said before Tuesday's 8-1 win over the Brewers in an exhibition game. "That's pretty clear, but he's had a remarkable spring, and a very good impact and a good impression. His time is coming. It's not right now. No matter where he starts, the plan for him will remain the same."

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Tucker, ranked as the club's No. 2 prospect by MLB Pipeline, led all Major League players with 21 RBIs in 41 at-bats entering Tuesday's spring finale, including a grand slam on Monday night in his first career at-bat at Minute Maid Park. That was his fifth homer of the spring.

In 2017, Tucker batted .274 with 70 runs, 33 doubles, five triples, 25 homers, 90 RBIs, 21 steals and an .874 OPS in 120 combined games between Class A Advanced Buies Creek and Corpus Christi, where he ended the season. Despite being one of the youngest position players (20 at the time) in both the Carolina and Texas leagues, Tucker was one of just 10 players in the Minors to record at least 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases.

Tucker said on Tuesday that he'll head back to West Palm Beach, Fla., on Wednesday and report to Minor League camp. Infielder/outfielder Tony Kemp and infielder Tyler White, both of whom have Major League service time and just missed out on making the 25-man roster, won't have to go to Minors camp following Tuesday's spring finale.

White will remain in Houston while the Astros are in Arlington to play the Rangers, and Kemp will spend a few days at home in Nashville, Tenn., before reporting to Triple-A. The Astros will pass out World Series championship rings to the 2017 team prior to next Tuesday's game against the Orioles, but Kemp and White will have to get their rings at a later date.

Video: STL@HOU: Tucker triples to center, drives in three

"There's definitely times during the season when injuries occur or they need a different look or someone needs a breather, so just looking forward to being that first outfielder that's called whenever they need me and go down there a wreak havoc like I did last year," said Kemp, who led all of Triple-A in hits last year and was named Fresno's MVP and Defensive Player of the Year.

Gurriel hopes to avoid DL
Hinch said the club was hoping to get injured first baseman Yuli Gurriel, who's recovering from surgery to remove the hook of the hamate bone in his left hand on Feb. 28, into a live game in Minor League camp on Tuesday or Wednesday. Gurriel will be suspended for the first five games of the regular season, but the Asros are hoping he can avoid the disabled list, which means he could play as early as next Tuesday against the Orioles.

"That's the next step for him is to face live competition," Hinch said. "The more at-bats he can get, the more likely he is to be ready if he keeps responding like he is."

The Astros won't have to decide until close to game time on Thursday whether Gurriel starts the season on the DL.

Hinch said early in camp that he planned to move Gurriel around the infield in the spring to get him more accustomed to playing second base and shortstop, in addition to first base and third base, which are his more natural positions. Because Gurriel missed so much time this spring, those plans have been shelved.

"I still feel I can put him at third and first if needed, but we won't be as open to as many positions around the field as we were originally hoping to get him some reps," Hinch said. "It's now important to get his hand strength up and get him in the lineup."

Dauer to throw first pitch
Rich Dauer, the retired former Astros first-base coach who nearly died after collapsing following the team's World Series parade in November, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to Monday's home opener against the Orioles. Hinch will catch the first pitch.

Dauer, 65, underwent a successful surgery to repair an acute subdural hematoma, only hours after he collapsed during the team's parade on Nov. 3. When the surgery began, doctors said he had a three percent chance of survival. He's made a full recovery and lives in Atlanta.

Video: Astros first-base coach Dauer lucky to be alive

Dauer paid a visit to the team's spring camp earlier this month in West Palm Beach, Fla., and he traveled with them to the White House on March 12 to be honored by President Donald Trump for winning the World Series.

It took a perfectly executed string of events to save Dauer's life in the minutes following the parade. Astros team doctors, team officials and EMTs worked in unison to get an ill Dauer out of the massive crowd on a hot afternoon and to nearby Houston Medical Center. Surgery to remove pressure and stop the bleeding on his brain took three hours.

"I didn't know what I went through and there was a lot of people that had to be put in the right spot for me to go through what I did," Dauer said earlier this month. "I didn't have anything to do with it. God decided he didn't want me to die."

Up next
After Wednesday's off-day, watch live on MLB.TV as the Astros open the regular season at 2:40 p.m. CT on Thursday against the Rangers at Globe Life Park. Right-hander Justin Verlander (15-8, 3.36 ERA in 2017) will get the ball for the Astros in his 10th Opening Day start.

Brian McTaggart. has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.

Houston Astros, Yuli Gurriel, Kyle Tucker, Justin Verlander

Davis, Fisher make Astros as OD roster set

White, Kemp optioned to Triple-A Fresno
MLB.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Astros manager AJ Hinch set the club's 25-man roster on Saturday, informing infielder J.D. Davis and outfielder Derek Fisher they had made their first Opening Day roster. Infielder Tyler White and infielder/outfielder Tony Kemp were optioned to Triple-A Fresno.

Davis beat out White for a spot in Houston's infield that opened up with the five-game suspension that starting first baseman Yuli Gurriel will serve to start the season. Davis, who increased his versatility this spring and can play the corner-infield spots and left field, is hitting .364 with five homers and nine RBIs this spring, and Hinch couldn't ignore the power.

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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Astros manager AJ Hinch set the club's 25-man roster on Saturday, informing infielder J.D. Davis and outfielder Derek Fisher they had made their first Opening Day roster. Infielder Tyler White and infielder/outfielder Tony Kemp were optioned to Triple-A Fresno.

Davis beat out White for a spot in Houston's infield that opened up with the five-game suspension that starting first baseman Yuli Gurriel will serve to start the season. Davis, who increased his versatility this spring and can play the corner-infield spots and left field, is hitting .364 with five homers and nine RBIs this spring, and Hinch couldn't ignore the power.

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"Davis really performed well this spring and was arguably one of our best offensive players and earned the right to make an Opening Day roster," Hinch said. "He swung the bat extremely well, especially against left-handed pitching."

Fisher held off what Hinch called a late charge by Kemp to win a spot in the outfield. Fisher, who has an impressive combination of power and speed, is hitting .292 this spring with a .407 on-base percentage. He'll join George Springer, Josh Reddick and Jake Marisnick as the club's four outfielders, though Marwin Gonzalez and Davis can play there, too.

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"It's a dream come true, and it's something you work for your entire life," Fisher said. "To be a part of Opening Day is really special. It's my first one, and I'll definitely remember it forever."

Hinch said Fisher's at-bat got better over the past week to 10 days, when Kemp was pushing him, and he will work in the rotation in the outfield, specifically left field. The better he plays, the more he'll play, Hinch said.

"Fisher was certainly challenged by Kemp throughout the entire spring -- Fisher making a late push with his mechanics offensively and what he can bring us," Hinch said. "On the bases, we felt like he was the best option to fill out our roster."

Video: MIA@HOU: Fisher plates two on a double to right

Both White and Kemp will come with the team to Houston for exhibition games against the Brewers on Monday and Tuesday before heading to Fresno. Hinch said they deserve to be in the big leagues, but they just don't fit with the club currently.

"These are tough conversations at the end," Hinch said. "Player 26, 27 and 28, I've been there personally and know it's not a comfortable conversation. One of the best feelings is making an Opening Day roster, so you can imagine the frustration when they're the odd man out."

Let's revisit our pre-Spring Training and mid-Spring Training roster predictions, which were identical. We almost nailed it. The only one we missed was Davis over White.

Catcher (3): Max Stassi will serve as Brian McCann's primary backup, with Evan Gattis getting most of his at-bats at designated hitter.

First base (1): We originally had White over Davis to fill in while Gurriel was out, so we whiffed on this one. Davis' big numbers were too hard to ignore.

Second base (1): Jose Altuve. Check.

Third base (1): Alex Bregman. Check.

Shortstop (1): Carlos Correa. Check.

Utility (1): Gonzalez. Check.

Outfield (4): We had Fisher as the fourth outfielder all along with Springer, Reddick and Marisnick, but Kemp nearly beat him out.

Starting pitcher (5): Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers Jr., Gerrit Cole and Charlie Morton will line up in that order to start the season as expected.

Relief pitching (8): Tony Sipp won the final bullpen spot earlier this week, as expected. Thus, no drama here. He'll join Ken Giles, Chris Devenski, Will Harris, Joe Smith, Hector Rondon, Brad Peacock and Collin McHugh in the bullpen as predicted.

Brian McTaggart. has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.

Houston Astros, J.D. Davis, Derek Fisher

Tucker relishes playing near Tampa home

Astros No. 2 prospect gets start vs. Yankees in front of family, friends
Special to MLB.com

TAMPA, Fla. -- Nothing seems to rattle Astros rising star Kyle Tucker -- not even his homecoming party Friday night against the Yankees.

"I'm excited to play, my family coming, some friends coming," Tucker said before starting in right field for Friday's 2-0 Astros victory. "It'll be fun to play in front of them."

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TAMPA, Fla. -- Nothing seems to rattle Astros rising star Kyle Tucker -- not even his homecoming party Friday night against the Yankees.

"I'm excited to play, my family coming, some friends coming," Tucker said before starting in right field for Friday's 2-0 Astros victory. "It'll be fun to play in front of them."

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Spring Training information

Tucker said this without breaking a smile or raising an eyebrow -- emblematic of his play this spring, when he's calmly hit four home runs and coolly totaled 15 RBIs, with both numbers leading the defending World Series champions.

His latest impressive number is 11 -- the amount of tickets he had to gather for a fan club of family and friends who mostly reside only five minutes away from the Yankees' Steinbrenner Field.

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"I don't think I came to a ton of Spring Training games [growing up]; I just watched them from home," said the product of Tampa's Plant High School. "I would see the traffic when they would have the Spring Training games."

Traffic also likely doesn't rattle Tucker, 21, who has made an incredible first impression in his first big league Spring Training. He's batting .405 after notching a single and a stolen base in Friday's game.

"It's hard not to be impressed by him, given the type of spring that he's had," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "Just him getting comfortable around the older players, around players he's seen on TV, the mystique of the big leagues in Spring Training is something we want every young player to experience."

Video: HOU@NYM: Tucker clobbers solo moonshot to right

"It's going well; I've learned a lot," said Tucker, the Astros' first-round pick (fifth overall) in the 2015 Draft. "I kind of knew what I needed to work on coming into the spring."

That's the key to Tucker's success -- not resting on the laurels of being the team's reigning Minor League Player of the Year. He admittedly worked hard in the offseason to fine-tune his approach at the plate and did it by getting his work done early on a daily basis this spring.

"I made it a point early in the mornings before our practices start in the cages -- been working on it and it's gone pretty well," Tucker said. "Focusing on the strike zone, focusing not just on pitches in the zone but pitches over the plate that you can really drive."

The work has paid off for Tucker, who has more than lived up to all the hype of being the Astros' No. 2 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, but even with all of his success, he must wait his turn on an Astros roster that features a logjam of young stars who have had to do the same.

"I feel like these questions are the same ones I've been asked about [George] Springer, same ones I've been asked about with [Carlos] Correa, same with [Alex] Bregman," Hinch said. "We've kind of had the luxury of adding a guy like this [regularly] over the course of my tenure. So he has some people that will relate to him, some players who will help pave the way for him.

"He'll enter a clubhouse that's familiar with him, but more importantly the challenges he faces."

Video: HOU@NYM: Tucker swipes second base in the 9th inning

The waiting will be tough and Tucker knows the path to the Majors would be faster on lesser teams, but he's not worried about it.

"Yeah, it's tough, we have a great ballclub up there -- guessing it's a good thing we have that problem," he said. "I just have to keep doing what I'm doing and hopefully I'll make it a tough decision for them."

Hinch sees a future star in Tucker, who he admits has the body type of other tall and lanky corner outfielders of Hinch's generation like Shawn Green and Ben Grieve, but that's where the comparisons end.

"I don't like to compare anybody to anybody; the best version of himself is what we need," Hinch said.

For now, the Astros like Tucker for being Tucker.

"He's a pretty evenkeeled guy; he's comfortable in his own skin," Hinch said. "I haven't seen any panic in his approach. He's been quiet, which is the right thing to do as a young player. He's been comfortable since Day One."

Even on his homecoming night.

Mike Nabors is a contributor to MLB.com and covered the Astros on Friday.

Houston Astros, Kyle Tucker

Astros send 9 to Minors camp, will option Perez

MLB.com

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The Astros made their first wave of roster moves in Spring Training on Wednesday, reassigning infielders Randy Cesar and Nick Tanielu, outfielders Drew Ferguson, Alejandro Garcia and Miles Straw, left-handed pitcher Framber Valdez, catcher Jamie Ritchie and right-handed pitchers Jacob Dorris and Riley Ferrell to Minor League camp.

The club will also option left-handed pitcher Cionel Perez -- the Astros' No. 6 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline -- to the Minor Leagues on Friday. Dorris and Ferrell both threw in Wednesday's 7-6 loss to the Marlins at Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The Astros made their first wave of roster moves in Spring Training on Wednesday, reassigning infielders Randy Cesar and Nick Tanielu, outfielders Drew Ferguson, Alejandro Garcia and Miles Straw, left-handed pitcher Framber Valdez, catcher Jamie Ritchie and right-handed pitchers Jacob Dorris and Riley Ferrell to Minor League camp.

The club will also option left-handed pitcher Cionel Perez -- the Astros' No. 6 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline -- to the Minor Leagues on Friday. Dorris and Ferrell both threw in Wednesday's 7-6 loss to the Marlins at Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.

Spring info | Tickets | Schedule

Left-handed pitcher Anthony Gose, a Rule 5 Draft pickup from the Rangers, is currently on waivers. If he clears waivers, he'll be offered back to Texas for $50,000, which is half of what the Astros paid the Rangers for taking him in the Rule 5 Draft in December.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Wednesday's moves leave the Astros with 49 players remaining in camp three weeks shy of Opening Day. The 25-man roster to begin the season is pretty much set, so none of the remaining camp moves the Astros will make in the next week or so will impact the Opening Day roster.

Cole 'dialed back'

Astros right-hander Gerrit Cole didn't exactly breeze through his third start of the spring in Wednesday's loss, but he worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the third and threw 69 pitches in 3 2/3 scoreless innings.

"Just continue the process and get a little more familiar with [starting catcher] Brian [McCann]," Cole said. "We had a better game plan going into today and got the pitch count up and made quality pitches."

Video: MIA@HOU: Cole discusses his solid start vs. the Fish

Cole, who hit 100 mph in his second spring start on Friday, sat in the mid-90s with his fastball for the most part. He worked his fastball-slider combination pretty well and spun a few curveballs.

"He was pretty focused on his slider today, and I just think this is the middle part of spring where guys are dialed back a little bit and trying to fine-tune or work on a few things," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "When your dialed-back is mid-90s and not the upper-90s, that's a pretty good fallback option."

Video: MIA@HOU: Hinch on Cole building chemistry with McCann

Rondon taking it slow

Veteran reliever Hector Rondon, whose only Spring Training appearance came on Feb. 26 when he allowed four runs in 2 2/3 innings, insisted Wednesday he's healthy. Rondon said he's been doing work on the side, though he admitted he "felt a bit off" with his balance and his delivery in his only game appearance of the spring.

"I feel like we need to work more outside of the games instead of coming into the game fired up," Rondon said. "We have a process to working, and maybe next week I'll start throwing in the game."

Hinch didn't have a target date of when Rondon might get into a game, and he maintained the reliever is on a slower schedule than his peers.

"Slow and steady, just kind of working his way into camp," Hinch said. "He's a veteran guy. He's on a much slower program than a lot of other guys. What I said earlier in camp is we individualize it, and it's probably to the extreme."

The Astros signed Rondon to a two-year, $8.5 million deal in December to fortify their bullpen. A five-year Major League veteran, Rondon enters 2018 having spent his entire career with the Cubs. He is 18-13 with a 3.22 ERA in 296 1/3 innings. He has 77 career saves and has appeared in at least 45 games in every season of his career.

Injury update

First baseman Yuli Gurriel (left hand surgery) will be out until mid-April.

Quotable

Video: MIA@HOU: Altuve opens the scoring with two-run smash

"I feel good. I've been working really hard to get to the point where I want to be. I don't know yet if I'm ready, but I'm really, really close to where I want to be, so I feel happy. I've been getting enough workouts and stuff to be prepared for the season." -- Astros second baseman Jose Altuve, who hit a two-run homer in the first inning Wednesday

Brian McTaggart. has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.

Houston Astros, Cionel Perez

Tucker impressing Astros, but won't make club

Club's top hitting prospect has 3 HRs this spring, still has work to do in Minors
MLB.com

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- One of the most notable stories in the first couple of weeks of Astros camp has been 21-year-old Kyle Tucker, the sweet-swinging, left-handed-hitting outfielder who clubbed his third home run in Grapefruit League play on Thursday.

While fans' expectations have been raised to the point they're wondering if Tucker will make the club out of camp, his teammates have even been showing Tucker some love by taking down his nameplate and writing "Ted" above his locker -- an homage to Hall of Famer Ted Williams.

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- One of the most notable stories in the first couple of weeks of Astros camp has been 21-year-old Kyle Tucker, the sweet-swinging, left-handed-hitting outfielder who clubbed his third home run in Grapefruit League play on Thursday.

While fans' expectations have been raised to the point they're wondering if Tucker will make the club out of camp, his teammates have even been showing Tucker some love by taking down his nameplate and writing "Ted" above his locker -- an homage to Hall of Famer Ted Williams.

Let's pump the brakes.

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Astros manager A.J. Hinch, when asked Friday afternoon about Tucker's chances to make the team, gushed with praise about baseball's No. 16 prospect, per MLB Pipeline, but said Tucker won't be breaking camp with the big league club.

"He's a good-looking young player who is doing a great job of making a great first impression," Hinch said. "He's got some things to learn, he's got some things to work on. He's a great talent, and I think that's where it starts and ends. I think his contribution to the Major League level will come at some point if he continues to progress, but it's not going to come at the end of the month no matter what he does. We feel it's just not in the best interest for him.

Video: BOS@HOU: Tucker on pitch selection, taking good ABs

"Now, he can make it more interesting. That timeline always moves depending on your readiness, but that's not defined by the first two weeks of spring. I'm proud of him, I'm happy he's doing what he's doing. The Kyle Tucker show will join the big leagues at some point if he continues to do what he's doing, but he's not currently in competition to make the team."

Tucker said Thursday he has been working on pitch selection this spring, which is the next step in his development. Hinch said pitch recognition, attacking early in counts and defending himself with two strikes are some things Tucker needs to improve upon.

Video: NYM@HOU: Tucker hits a two-run homer to left-center

"Like with a lot of hitters -- we've seen this happen with [Carlos] Correa and [Alex] Bregman and George [Springer] -- when they get closer to the big leagues, there's a lot of fine-tuning that goes on and a lot of that circles around tougher game plans that start to come about when the regular season starts," Hinch said. "When you start facing competition in-season, those are things he'll finish off in the big leagues at some point. I'm certainly happy with what he's doing."

Video: BOS@HOU: Hinch on Morton's start, Tucker's hot spring

Tucker batted .274 with 70 runs, 33 doubles, five triples, 25 homers, 90 RBIs, 21 steals and an .874 OPS in 120 combined games last year between Double-A Corpus Christi and Class A Advanced Buies Creek. Despite being one of the youngest position players (20 at the time) in both the Carolina League and the Texas League, Tucker was one of just 10 players in all of the Minor Leagues to record at least 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases in 2017.

He's likely going to start 2018 back at Corpus Christi, which means he could be an option for Houston at some point this season. The Astros, of course, could stand to benefit financially down the road by pushing back Tucker's service time clock well into the season, but his development is front and center in spring decisions.

"Whether he starts at Double-A or Triple-A will be determined by the organization, but he's got a chance to do a lot of things in the game," Hinch said. "If the timeline is sooner rather than later, then we'll address it. It's not right now."

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.

Houston Astros, Kyle Tucker

Prospect Whitley issues apology for suspension

Special to MLB.com

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Forrest Whitley issued an apology via Twitter on Tuesday morning. The right-hander, the Astros' top-ranked prospect and the ninth-ranked prospect in baseball by MLB Pipeline, was suspended for 50 games without pay by the Commissioner's Office for a violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

"It's an incredibly unfortunate situation that I will never forgive myself for," Whitley's apology began. "Nobody is more disappointed than I am. I'm GOING to bounce back from this and make my teammates, family and the ones closest to me proud. I am more driven than I've ever been."

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PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Forrest Whitley issued an apology via Twitter on Tuesday morning. The right-hander, the Astros' top-ranked prospect and the ninth-ranked prospect in baseball by MLB Pipeline, was suspended for 50 games without pay by the Commissioner's Office for a violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

"It's an incredibly unfortunate situation that I will never forgive myself for," Whitley's apology began. "Nobody is more disappointed than I am. I'm GOING to bounce back from this and make my teammates, family and the ones closest to me proud. I am more driven than I've ever been."

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Tweet from @ForrestWhitley: pic.twitter.com/brgsg3JWVy

Drafted No. 17 overall by the Astros in 2016, Whitley is currently on Double-A Corpus Christi's roster. His suspension begins at the start of the 2018 Texas League season.

Peacock goes two innings in first start
Although his role is still to be determined, right-hander Brad Peacock continues to build on a career year with the Astros, when he went 10-2 with a 3.22 ERA as a starter and 3-0 with a 1.77 ERA as a reliever. He could do either, or both, again this season.

Peacock made his first start this spring, working two scoreless innings in an 8-2 win over the Mets on Tuesday at First Data Field.

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Peacock struggled a bit in the second inning, giving up back-to-back walks to open the frame before getting a strikeout and double play to end his 34-pitch, 20-strike outing. Peacock yielded just one hit and struck out three.

"Felt good," Peacock said. "I had a little trouble there in the second, but I had a good changeup and it got me out [of trouble]. Still trying to get the slider to lefties, back door, a little better."

But it was the changeup that Peacock was most satisfied with. 

"I've been working on my changeup this spring and I threw some good ones today," Peacock said. "I threw all four pitches today and felt good with it, so it's definitely something to build on."

Video: HOU@NYM: Peacock gets Cabrera looking in the 1st

Gose takes mound
Anthony Gose threw live batting practice on Tuesday for the first time this spring. He stayed back in West Palm Beach while the Astros traveled to play the Mets in a Grapefruit League game in Port St. Lucie.

Gose is a converted outfielder who threw 10 2/3 innings last season for the Tigers' Class A Advanced Lakeland club before being shut down by an elbow injury. The left-hander, who is said to have hit 100 mph last year with his fastball, came to the Astros as a Rule 5 Draft pick last December.

"He'll throw one or two of those and then he'll get into a game hopefully soon after that," Hinch said. "He's coming off a pretty significant injury. He didn't have a complete season last year. He's new to pitching, so he's been on a little bit more of a rehab schedule more so than a regular schedule."

Video: Gose and Hinch on Gose's pitching pursuit

"Ted" Tucker?
Back in 2015 when the Astros made Kyle Tucker their first-round Draft pick (fifth overall), the comparisons were already being made between his swing and that of Hall of Famer Ted Williams.

"When that came out in a morning meeting a couple days ago, the boys took it upon themselves to rename him," Hinch explained on Tuesday.

The nameplate above his clubhouse locker reads "Ted Tucker."

"So he's going to go by 'Ted' from here on out in our clubhouse," Hinch said.

Tweet from @Collin_McHugh: Kyle Tucker can���t come the the phone right now. Why? Because he���s #Ted

Tucker, playing along with it, promptly went out and slugged his second home run of the spring -- to the opposite field no less.

"So you can call him any name you want as long as he keeps homering," Hinch said. "He's not going to take down that nameplate, he's going to have to wear it as a young guy. It's fun. There's great camaraderie on this team, and our guys love the new guys that come in. We'd had his brother [Preston Tucker] on the team, so they're familiar with the family, and we had heard about Kyle Tucker long before he arrived here."

Video: NYM@HOU: Tucker hits a two-run homer to left-center

Tucker's swing is unique: "He's got a little bit of a different setup, he's got a little bit different hand path. But his bat-to-ball skills are really good," Hinch said. "He's strong, he's got a little lower hand slot for being such a big guy.

"People talk about these graceful left-handed swings. He's got more of a physical swing with the way he goes about it, so it looks different. The bat-to-ball skills are pretty elite from what we've seen in the Minor Leagues and then the first impression here."

Position battle
A trio of quality candidates continues to battle for playing time in left field. Derek Fisher is among them. The versatile Marwin Gonzalez along with right fielder Josh Reddick also figure to be in the mix.

Fisher got the start in left field on Tuesday and moved over to center field in the later innings. He went 0-for-2 with a bases-loaded walk and a strikeout. He scored a run and also reached on an error.

Video: HOU@NYM: Fisher plates Gattis with bases-loaded walk

Up next: The Astros host the split-squad Twins at 12:05 p.m. CT on Wednesday (live on MLB.TV). Right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. gets his first start of the spring.

Glenn Sattell is a contributor to MLB.com.

Houston Astros

Armenteros brings heat in spring opener

Davis sheds pounds to add versatility, goes deep
MLB.com

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- His reputation of being a strikeout machine showed early for Astros prospect Rogelio Armenteros when he struck out the first two batters he faced in Friday's 3-2 win over the Nationals in the Grapefruit League opener at Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.

That set the tone for a crisp two-inning outing for Armenteros, who allowed one walk and struck out three batters without allowing a hit or a run.

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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- His reputation of being a strikeout machine showed early for Astros prospect Rogelio Armenteros when he struck out the first two batters he faced in Friday's 3-2 win over the Nationals in the Grapefruit League opener at Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.

That set the tone for a crisp two-inning outing for Armenteros, who allowed one walk and struck out three batters without allowing a hit or a run.

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Astros Spring Training: Info | Tickets | Schedule

"I thought he did well," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "I can see how he gets his strikeouts. Obviously, it's his first time out. He came out and set a nice little tone and threw strikes. His changeup is really good. I always joke, 'You can't make the team on the first day,' but he tried to challenge that a little bit by punching everybody out. But it's fun."

Armenteros, 23, had arguably the best Minor League season among all Astros pitching prospects in 2017, posting a 10-4 record and a 2.04 ERA in 24 games (20 starts) between Triple-A Fresno and Double-A Corpus Christi, where he had a 1.93 ERA and was a Midseason All-Star in the Texas League. He struck out 146 over 123 2/3 innings across the two levels and enters this season as Houston's No. 12 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline.

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"I was very happy to be there and very thankful to A.J. Hinch to get the opportunity," he said.

Slimmed-down Davis gets off to fast start with homer

Considering Alex Bregman is the Astros' starting third baseman for the foreseeable future, J.D. Davis figured there was a chance he might get asked to play different positions this spring. Davis decided shedding a few pounds would help him if he had to play elsewhere, as well as making him more nimble around third base.

Video: WSH@HOU: Davis lifts a solo homer to left

Sure enough, Davis figures to get some reps in left field this spring, the one area in the Astros' lineup where there's no set starter. Derek Fisher is the favorite to get most of the time, but Marwin Gonzalez will continue to get at-bats there while also playing around the infield. Tony Kemp will play some left field as well.

Davis isn't a fish out of water when it comes to the outfield -- he played right field at Cal State Fullerton -- but learning left field will take some reps.

"It's a little bit different, but I planned for this," he said. "I dropped 15 pounds. I'm down to 222 and I plan to be more versatile this year and maybe play a little more outfield. And find a way to make it to the big leagues again and help the team out the best I can."

Davis played 25 games in his big league debut last year, hitting .226 with four homers and seven RBIs. He was the Double-A Player of the Year at Corpus Christi, hitting .279 with 21 homers and 60 RBIs. He smacked a home run in Friday's 3-2 win over Washington.

"My biggest weakness is my defense and I try to take pride in it every day and work hard every day, no matter if it's in the outfield or third base," he said.

Video: WSH@HOU: Stassi rips a two-run homer in the 3rd

Quote of the day: "We know two of his strengths are homering and framing pitches, and he did both very well today,"
-- Hinch, on catcher Max Stassi, who hit a homer in the third inning of the win over the Nationals

Up next: Right-hander Collin McHugh will get his first start of the spring when the Astros face the Braves at 12:05 p.m. CT Saturday on MLB.TV at Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. McHugh, who went 5-2 with a 3.55 ERA last year in 12 starts, is battling for a spot in a stacked rotation.

Houston Astros

Despite graduations, trades, Astros' new Top 30 strong

MLB.com

General Manager Jeff Luhnow executed his rebuilding plan to perfection. He tore the Astros down and reconstructed them into a World Series champion over six seasons, forming a nucleus around homegrown stars Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa, Dallas Keuchel and George Springer. The farm system also contributed postseason hero Lance McCullers Jr. and the trade fodder used to acquire Evan Gattis, Ken Giles, Brian McCann and Justin Verlander.

Astros Top 30 Prospects list

General Manager Jeff Luhnow executed his rebuilding plan to perfection. He tore the Astros down and reconstructed them into a World Series champion over six seasons, forming a nucleus around homegrown stars Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa, Dallas Keuchel and George Springer. The farm system also contributed postseason hero Lance McCullers Jr. and the trade fodder used to acquire Evan Gattis, Ken Giles, Brian McCann and Justin Verlander.

Astros Top 30 Prospects list

The system remains in good shape even after all of its graduations and trade departures. Luhnow managed to acquire Verlander last August and Gerrit Cole in January without parting with the organization's two best prospects, right-hander Forrest Whitley and Kyle Tucker, high school first-rounders who should make their presence felt in Houston in the near future (even with Whitley suspended for 50 games after failing a drug test).

:: Team Top 30 Prospects lists ::

A minor deal that sent Josh Fields to the Dodgers for outfielder/first baseman Yordan Alvarez in July 2016 will pay huge dividends if Alvarez's bat is as good as it looked last season. International signings, both of the big-ticket variety (shortstop Freudis Nova, left-hander Cionel Perez) and from the bargain bin (right-handers Jorge Alcala and Hector Perez) have helped maintain the system's depth.

Biggest jump/fall
Here are the players whose ranks changed the most from the 2017 preseason list to the 2018 preseason list.

Jump: Jorge Alcala, RHP (2017: 29 | 2018: 7)
Fall: Miguelangel Sierra, SS/2B (2017: 10 | 2018: NR)

Best tools
Players are graded on a 20-80 scouting scale for future tools -- 20-30 is well below average, 40 is below average, 50 is average, 60 is above average and 70-80 is well above average. Players in parentheses also have the same grade.

Hit: 55 -- Kyle Tucker (Yordan Alvarez, Myles Straw)
Power: 60 -- Kyle Tucker
Run: 70 -- Myles Straw
Arm: 70 -- Joe Perez
Defense: 60 -- Gilberto Celestino (Myles Straw)
Fastball: 70 -- Jorge Alcala (J.B. Bukauskas, Jandel Gustave)
Curveball: 65 -- Forrest Whitley
Slider: 65 -- J.B. Bukauskas
Changeup: 55 -- Rogelio Armenteros (Brandon Bailey, David Paulino, Cionel Perez, Forrest Whitley)
Control: 55 -- Rogelio Armenteros (David Paulino, Cionel Perez)

How they were built
Draft: 16
International: 10
Trade: 4

Breakdown by ETA
2018: 7
2019: 7
2020: 10
2021: 6

Breakdown by position
C: 2
1B: 0
2B: 0
3B: 3
SS: 2
OF: 7
RHP: 13
LHP: 3

Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

Houston Astros

Prospect Armenteros to start Grapefruit opener

Hinch, Astros rewarding righty for impressive 2017 season
MLB.com

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Right-hander Rogelio Armenteros will start the Astros' Grapefruit League opener on Friday against the Nationals at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, manager A.J. Hinch said Wednesday morning.

Armenteros, 23, had arguably the best Minor League season among all Astros pitching prospects in 2017, posting a 10-4 record and a 2.04 ERA in 24 games (20 starts) between Triple-A Fresno and Double-A Corpus Christi, where he had a 1.93 ERA and was a Midseason All-Star in the Texas League. He struck out 146 over 123 2/3 innings across the two levels and finished 2017 as Houston's No. 19 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline.

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Right-hander Rogelio Armenteros will start the Astros' Grapefruit League opener on Friday against the Nationals at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, manager A.J. Hinch said Wednesday morning.

Armenteros, 23, had arguably the best Minor League season among all Astros pitching prospects in 2017, posting a 10-4 record and a 2.04 ERA in 24 games (20 starts) between Triple-A Fresno and Double-A Corpus Christi, where he had a 1.93 ERA and was a Midseason All-Star in the Texas League. He struck out 146 over 123 2/3 innings across the two levels and finished 2017 as Houston's No. 19 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline.

Astros Spring Training information

"I wanted to reward him for a great season," Hinch said. "I think he led our Minor Leagues in strikeouts. He's one of the more unheralded prospects that we have and we want to get a first look at him and reward him with a start."

The first few days of games will be dominated by Houston's younger pitchers, as the veteran starters will be brought along more slowly.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.

Houston Astros, Rogelio Armenteros

Astros top prospect Whitley suspended 50 games

Righty violated Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program
MLB.com

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Astros right-handed Minor League pitcher Forrest Whitley, the No. 9-ranked prospect in baseball by MLB Pipeline, has been suspended for 50 games without pay by the Commissioner's Office for a violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

The suspension of Whitley, who is currently on the roster of Double-A Corpus Christi, will be effective at the start of the 2018 Texas League season.

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Astros right-handed Minor League pitcher Forrest Whitley, the No. 9-ranked prospect in baseball by MLB Pipeline, has been suspended for 50 games without pay by the Commissioner's Office for a violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

The suspension of Whitley, who is currently on the roster of Double-A Corpus Christi, will be effective at the start of the 2018 Texas League season.

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow wouldn't say what prompted the suspension.

"We're disappointed in the outcome," he said. "We support Major League Baseball's drug program, and we do everything we can to educate our guys and keep them from making decisions that results in suspensions. But in this case, as an organization, we're going to suffer a little bit. But we're still hopeful and optimistic Forrest is going to be a big part of our future."

Whitley, drafted No. 17 overall by the Astros in 2016, issued an apology through his agent, Matt Laird.

Video: Whitley named Astros' Pipeline pitcher of the year

"I made a mistake and take full responsibility for my actions," he said. "I want to apologize to the Astros organization, my family and those closest to me. I will learn from this mistake and continue striving to be the best baseball player that I can be."

Whitley will come to Minor League camp as scheduled and work out in preparation for the Double-A season, Luhnow said. The earliest he could start his season is May 29 for Corpus Christi, which makes it less likely Whitley could get called up this year.

"He's a quality young man," Luhnow said. "The pitching side, he's going to continue to develop. This is part of maturity. When you're a high school player and get drafted and are a top prospect, there's a lot of pressure that goes along with that. And I don't know if that had anything to do with this, but there's a maturation process going from high school to the big leagues, and this is one step along for him.

Video: How Whitley's suspension affects Astros' future plans

"I'm fully confident, given how I know him and his character, he's going to bounce back and use this as a way to make himself stronger."

Whitley, the Astros' No. 1-ranked prospect by MLB Pipeline, wasn't among the 19 non-roster players that Houston invited to big league camp, though Luhnow said his looming suspension didn't play into that decision.

Whitley dominated at three Minor League levels last year despite pitching the entire season at 19 years old, going 5-4 with a 2.83 ERA with 34 walks, 78 hits allowed and 143 strikeouts in 23 games (18 starts) across 92 1/3 innings at Corpus Christi, Class A Buies Creek and Class A Quad Cities. The 6-foot-7 right-hander led the Minors in strikeouts per nine innings (13.94).

Last month, first baseman Jon Singleton -- the team's former No. 1 prospect who spent all of last season at Double-A Corpus Christi -- received a 100-game suspension without pay after a third positive test for a drug of abuse in violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, and right-hander Dean Deetz -- the team's No. 24 prospect according to MLB Pipeline -- received an 80-game suspension without pay for testing positive for Dehydrochlormethyltestosterone, a performance-enhancing substance.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.

Houston Astros

Astros looking to Fisher to win left-field job

MLB.com

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Even the deepest lineup in the big leagues has a "Help Wanted" sign as Spring Training begins this week.

The Astros, who are loaded with superstar talent, led by 2017 American League Most Valuable Player Jose Altuve, star shortstop Carlos Correa and 2017 World Series MVP George Springer, are seeking a left fielder for 2018. Qualified candidates who can hit, run and throw are encouraged to apply and some experience is necessary.

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Even the deepest lineup in the big leagues has a "Help Wanted" sign as Spring Training begins this week.

The Astros, who are loaded with superstar talent, led by 2017 American League Most Valuable Player Jose Altuve, star shortstop Carlos Correa and 2017 World Series MVP George Springer, are seeking a left fielder for 2018. Qualified candidates who can hit, run and throw are encouraged to apply and some experience is necessary.

Spring Training information

Astros manager A.J. Hinch already has a list of candidates who might fill the opening, led by up-and-coming outfielder Derek Fisher. The Astros looked for a left fielder in the offseason -- and still could land one prior to Opening Day -- but for now it appears Fisher will get a chance to show what he can do.

"Every year I've gone in with the same mindset and I'm going to do it the same this year," Fisher said. "It's just to compete and win a job. I know in years past it hasn't been that way, but I'm still going to continue to do what I've been doing, as far as picking brains of the guys I get to be around every day. This team we bring back is pretty close to the team we had last year that everybody is going to remember forever."

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The battle for playing time in left field figures to be the Astros' biggest position-player battle this spring, and Fisher will have a legitimate shot to win the job. Best known so far for scoring the game-winning run in Game 5 of the World Series, Fisher as a rookie hit .212 with five homers and 17 RBIs in 53 games across two stints in the big leagues.

His Minor League resume is far more impressive, having hit .318 with 21 homers and 66 RBIs in 84 games at Triple-A last year. Fisher has a rare power-speed combination, but he also struck out at a high rate (54 in 166 plate appearances).

Video: Fisher named Astros' Pipeline hitter of the year

Fisher said he learned plenty last year while in the big leagues.

"I was able to look at a couple of ways to play the game and towards the end, obviously, coming off the bench and being able to be a bench guy and standing around, Cameron Maybin helped me a lot in that time," he said. "It gets overlooked the amount of people I get to play with every day and pick the brains of. I'm pretty lucky in my position."

Marwin Gonzalez, who started in left field in the playoffs, will get some reps in left, along with Tony Kemp. Hinch said veteran outfielder Josh Reddick will play some left, too, with Jake Marisnick vying for playing time in right.

"Obviously, there will be some competition," Hinch said. "We have a versatile enough roster I can mix and match a little bit. Those and the at-bats at DH are going to be the ones that are the most open."

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.

Houston Astros, Derek Fisher