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Champs' roster loaded for another title run

Newcomers Cole, Smith and Rondon bolster talented pitching staff
MLB.com @brianmctaggart

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 Tyler White 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.

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 Tyler White 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): Brian McCann was a huge reason for the Astros' success last year and returns as the starter. Evan Gattis remains McCann's backup, but expect Max Stassi 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 Marwin Gonzalez getting time at first as well.

Second base (1): Reigning American League Most Valuable Player Award winner Jose Altuve is in the prime of his career and will be seeking his fourth batting title.

Video: Watch Jose Altuve's top 10 moments of the 2017 season

Third base (1): Alex Bregman had a solid first full season, and his second-half performance hinted at All-Star potential.

Shortstop (1): If All-Star Carlos Correa 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 George Springer and Josh Reddick had the best seasons of their careers. So did fourth outfielder Jake Marisnick, who didn't play in the postseason because of a thumb injury. Derek Fisher will get a shot to show what he can do in left field.

Video: Astros agree to two-year deal with George Springer

Rotation (5): Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel and Gerrit Cole all started on Opening Day last year and now share the same rotation, along with All-Star Lance McCullers Jr. and Charlie Morton. The odd man out is veteran Collin McHugh, who could be traded.

Bullpen (8): The addition of Cole likely pushes Brad Peacock to the bullpen, where he could be a weapon. Closer Ken Giles, Chris Devenski, Will Harris and newcomers Joe Smith and Hector Rondon will join Peacock, leaving two more spots. We'll put McHugh in the 'pen as long relief, along with the lone lefty -- Tony Sipp.

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

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