Champs' roster loaded for another title run

Newcomers Cole, Smith and Rondon bolster talented pitching staff

February 8th, 2018

HOUSTON -- The Astros will enter Spring Training with few holes to fill on their 25-man roster, which doesn't leave much room for imagination when you're predicting what the roster will look like on Opening Day.
Sure, we all know injuries could happen and somebody unexpected will open eyes in spring camp the way did in 2016, but the defending World Series champions feature a deep, experienced lineup and a rotation brimming with talent. The bullpen has been upgraded this offseason as well.
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So before we hear a mitt pop or a bat crack in West Palm Beach, Fla., let's take a shot at predicting what the roster might look like when the Astros visit the Rangers in the regular-season opener March 29:
Catcher (3): was a huge reason for the Astros' success last year and returns as the starter. Evan Gattis remains McCann's backup, but expect to make the club as a third catcher to bolster the defense. Gattis will get plenty of at-bats at DH.
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First base (1):Yuli Gurriel will be suspended for the first five games of 2018 for making an offensive gesture during the World Series. He won't be on the Opening Day roster, but he will be the starting first baseman throughout the season. White likely makes the club while Gurriel is suspended, with getting time at first as well.
Second base (1): Reigning American League Most Valuable Player Award winner is in the prime of his career and will be seeking his fourth batting title.

Third base (1): had a solid first full season, and his second-half performance hinted at All-Star potential.
Shortstop (1): If All-Star stays healthy this year (he missed nearly seven weeks last year with a thumb injury), he'll be in the AL MVP Award mix.
Utility (1): Gonzalez played left field in the playoffs and led the team in RBIs last year, but the Astros will continue to move him all over the field. There's a reason he got AL MVP Award votes last year.
Outfield (4): World Series MVP Award winner and had the best seasons of their careers. So did fourth outfielder , who didn't play in the postseason because of a thumb injury. will get a shot to show what he can do in left field.

Rotation (5):, and all started on Opening Day last year and now share the same rotation, along with All-Star and Charlie Morton. The odd man out is veteran , who could be traded.
Bullpen (8): The addition of Cole likely pushes Brad Peacock to the bullpen, where he could be a weapon. Closer , , Will Harris and newcomers Joe Smith and will join Peacock, leaving two more spots. We'll put McHugh in the 'pen as long relief, along with the lone lefty -- .