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Early predictions for Astros' Opening Day roster

@brianmctaggart
November 5, 2019

HOUSTON -- The Astros will return their core four homegrown star players -- José Altuve, George Springer, Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa -- next season, along with several other key pieces from a team that was eight outs from winning its second World Series championship in three seasons in 2019.

HOUSTON -- The Astros will return their core four homegrown star players -- José Altuve, George Springer, Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa -- next season, along with several other key pieces from a team that was eight outs from winning its second World Series championship in three seasons in 2019.

That sets up the Astros to be the favorites to win their fourth consecutive American League West title in 2020, as well as to once again be a contender for another AL pennant. Let’s take a really early stab at predicting what Houston’s '20 Opening Day roster might look like:

Catcher
Locks: Garrett Stubbs
Possibilities: Free agent/trade
Both of the Astros’ primary catchers from the 2019 season -- Robinson Chirinos and Martín Maldonado -- are free agents, leaving Stubbs as the only backstop on the 40-man roster. Catching will be their biggest priority heading into the offseason. Chirinos posted a .790 OPS last season, and he hit two homers in the World Series, while handling Justin Verlander behind the plate. His return would be a popular move. Maybe they’d be up for a reunion with Jason Castro, who had a .767 OPS last year with the Twins.

First base
Locks: Yuli Gurriel
Gurriel is back after having the best season of his career, during which he hit .298 with 31 homers, 104 RBIs and was a Gold Glove Award finalist. The Astros have him under contract for one more season.

Second base
Locks: José Altuve
Altuve rebounded from a right knee injury and had 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.

Shortstop
Locks: Carlos Correa
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.

Third base
Locks: Alex Bregman
Bregman had an MVP-type season, hitting .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.

Utility
Locks: Aledmys Díaz
Díaz played in only 69 games, 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.

Outfield
Locks: Michael Brantley, George Springer, Kyle Tucker
Possibilities: Jake Marisnick, Myles Straw
The Astros could trade Josh Reddick to make way for Tucker to play full time. There’s a small chance Marisnick might be non-tendered. Straw is the fastest player on the team and could be ready to assume a full-time backup outfielder role.

Designated hitter
Locks: Yordan Alvarez
Alvarez, the likely 2019 AL Rookie of the Year Award winner, will return for his first full season in the big leagues after hitting. 313 with 27 homers and 78 RBIs in only 87 games.

Starting pitchers
Locks: Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke, Lance McCullers Jr.
Possibilities: Jose Urquidy, free agent/trade
Top pitching prospect Forrest Whitley will get a shot to win a spot in the rotation coming off a disappointing 2019 season in which he was demoted to Class A, though he finished with a 2.88 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 25 innings in the Arizona Fall League. Urquidy’s strong showing last year -- capped by his terrific start in Game 4 of the World Series -- puts him at the forefront of the rotation race. Here’s guessing Houston will sign a veteran to join the rotation while Whitley starts the year in Triple-A. The Astros could make a run at a starter like free agents Zack Wheeler or Jake Odorizzi.

Relievers
Locks: Roberto Osuna, Ryan Pressly, Josh James, Brad Peacock and Bryan Abreu
Possibilities: Chris Devenski, free agent/trade
The only relief pitchers guaranteed to return are Pressly -- whose second half was derailed by right knee surgery -- Osuna, James, Peacock and Abreu. Will Harris is a free agent, along with Joe Smith, Héctor Rondón and Collin McHugh. Joe Biagini and Devenski are non-tender candidates. Houston will need to add some veteran bullpen help, which could mean re-signing Smith and Harris, and perhaps even adding a lefty. The Astros didn’t have a lefty on their pitching staff in the playoffs. Free agent left-hander Will Smith, an All-Star this year, would fit very nicely into Houston’s bullpen.

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