Projecting the Astros' Opening Day roster

March 14th, 2023

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The start of the regular season is a little more than two weeks away and the Astros’ potential 26-man roster is starting to come into better focus. Here’s a prediction at what the roster will look like when the club plays the White Sox on March 30:

Catcher (2): Martín Maldonado, Yainer Diaz
Korey Lee has swung the bat well so far this spring, and at this point it’s really hard to separate Lee and Diaz in terms of the competition to be Maldonado’s backup. Lee is more polished behind the plate, but we’ll stick with Diaz because of his experience at first. Lee has played a bit of first, too, this spring.

First baseman (1): José Abreu
The Astros signed Abreu, 36, to a three-year deal in November after he played his first nine Major League seasons with the White Sox, where he was consistently one of the top middle-of-the-order run producers in the game.

Second baseman (1): Jose Altuve
The eight-time All-Star and 2017 AL MVP returns for his 13th season entrenched as the Astros’ starter at second base. He’s coming off a terrific season in which he hit .300 with 28 homers, 57 RBIs, 18 stolen bases, 103 runs scored and a .921 OPS.

Shortstop (1): Jeremy Peña
Despite the Astros’ star power, few players are as popular as Peña, who took over for franchise icon Carlos Correa last year and won an AL Gold Glove, the ALCS Most Valuable Player and World Series MVP Awards as a rookie -- an unprecedented list of accomplishments. What will he do for an encore in 2023?

Third baseman (1): Alex Bregman
Bregman rebounded last year and returned to his elite form, hitting .259 with 23 homers, 87 walks, 93 runs and 93 RBIs while playing in 155 games after battling injuries the previous two seasons.

Outfielders (4): Kyle Tucker, Chas McCormick, Jake Meyers,
Enter Dirden, a prospect who’s swung the bat well in camp and may have a path to the Opening Day roster with veteran left fielder Michael Brantley likely on the injured list to start the season. Brantley entered camp rehabbing from right shoulder surgery in August and he has missed time this spring because of a family matter. Dirden would be able to back up McCormick in left, Meyers in center and Tucker in right.

DH (1): Yordan Alvarez
Alvarez began swinging a bat last week, but the Astros are running out of time to get him into games. There’s no reason to believe, at the moment, he won’t be ready for Opening Day, but he’d probably need to start getting some live at-bats by early next week.

Bench/utility (2): David Hensley, Mauricio Dubón
Hensley can play all four infield spots and left field. Dubón -- acquired in a midseason trade with the Giants last year -- can play third base, shortstop, second base, center and left. Other utility options are Bligh Madris, a left-handed hitter who came to the Astros in a trade in January (he can play first base and right field), and J.J. Matijevic.

Starting pitchers (5): Framber Valdez, Cristian Javier, José Urquidy, Luis Garcia, Hunter Brown
The loss of Justin Verlander in free agency and McCullers' injury leaves the Astros without two top-line starters, but Houston’s pitching depth is well equipped to absorb those losses. Valdez has emerged as an ace, and Javier, who signed a five-year, $64 million extension at the start of camp, is one of the league’s top young arms. Urquidy and Garcia are quality big league starters who were limited to relief outings in last year’s postseason. Brown -- the No. 43-ranked prospect by MLB Pipeline -- gets his shot.

Relief pitchers (8): Ryan Pressly, Ryne Stanek, Phil Maton, Rafael Montero, Bryan Abreu, Héctor Neris, Seth Martinez, Matt Gage
With Brown moving to the rotation and lefties and slowed by injuries this spring, there are a couple of open spots up for grabs. Martinez (who pitched well in limited action last year) is likely battling for a spot with , and (who was on last year’s Opening Day roster) and non-roster right-handers and . The southpaw Gage is on the 40-man and has impressed GM Dana Brown.