HOUSTON -- The expansion of Opening Day rosters to 30 players in the shortened 60-game season -- as opposed to the 26-man roster that was set to debut this year had there been a 162-game season -- gives an opportunity for four additional Astros to be with the club when the regular season starts in a month.
The Astros, who fell just shy of winning their second World Series title in three years last year, are talented and deep this year under first-year manager Dusty Baker. They had few position battles during spring camp except for the race for the fifth starter, the final position player and a bullpen spot or two. Players who are likely to make the 26-man roster, such as infielder Abraham Toro and pitchers Framber Valdez and Bryan Abreu, are probably sure bets for a 30-man roster.
Teams can field a 30-man Opening Day active roster, which they must reduce to 28 players at the season’s two-week mark. Two weeks later, on Day 29 of the season, they must slice that roster to 26 players. They will carry 26 players for the rest of the season.
Here are five players who stand to benefit from the expanded 30-man roster on Opening Day:
RHP Cy Sneed: Sneed’s ability to throw multiple innings out of the bullpen and bounce back quickly figures to be in his favor when it’s time to set the roster. Sneed wore out a path between Houston and Triple-A Round Rock after making his big league debut last June and wound up posting a 5.48 ERA in eight games. He doesn’t do anything extraordinary but takes the ball when he’s asked to pitch without hesitation.
C Garrett Stubbs: The only way Stubbs would have made a 26-man roster is if the Astros had decided to carry a third catcher behind Martín Maldonado and Dustin Garneau, which was unlikely. The extra roster spots bode well for Stubbs, who came to camp prepared to play some second base but never got into any action at the position in the game. He’s a left-handed bat who can play some outfield, so his versatility beyond strictly being a third catching option will be taken into consideration. Stubbs made his Major League debut last year and went 7-for-35 (.200) in 11 games with the Astros.
IF/OF Myles Straw: Straw, whose 30.1 feet per second sprint speed was the fourth fastest in the big leagues last year, had an opportunity swing wide open when the Astros traded Jake Marisnick to the Mets in the winter. Expect Straw to serve in a similar role as the fourth outfielder/pinch-runner/defensive replacement option. Straw played in 56 games for the Astros last year, going 8-for-9 in stolen bases. He started 12 games in center, three in left and one in right, and made his first career appearance in the infield, getting into 26 games at shortstop and four at second base.
IF Jack Mayfield: Dependability is the key for Mayfield, the 29-year-old undrafted free agent who defied the odds to make his Major League debut last May. He made 16 starts in 2019 -- 12 at shortstop and four at second base -- and has proven to be a steady hand on defense. There is some pop in Mayfield’s bat, but his presence on the roster will be about defensive infield depth insurance up the middle.
LHP Blake Taylor: As one of the few lefty relievers in camp, Taylor had a real opportunity in the spring and made the most of it. He threw seven innings over six games and didn’t allow a run, striking out seven batters and walking five. Considering Taylor has pitched only a handful of innings in his career above Double-A, he came to camp as a long shot to make a 26-man roster. The expanded roster now puts him on club’s Opening Day radar. Taylor, acquired from the Mets in the Marisnick deal, had a 2.16 ERA with 74 strikeouts in 66 2/3 innings at three different levels in the Mets' system in 2019 -- the first in which he was exclusively a reliever.