The Houston Astros fell to the New York Mets 8-3 on Saturday, but as Bryan Abreu took the mound for the last time this spring, the team announced that the right-hander made the Opening Day roster. This leaves us with a good sense of how the rest of the lineup will shake out, but there are a few options and other injuries/delays that will affect it. The right-hander went three innings with two runs, three hits, one walk and three strikeouts:
While Jake Odorizzi will have an extended spring training, the right-hander will not be ready by Opening Day, leaving the fifth starter spot to either Luis Garcia or Brandon Bielak. As Pedro Baez and Andre Scrubb are still in the works to make their return, two spots open up in the bullpen, while Steve Cishek has been dropped from the picture. One of those spots goes to Abreu.
While the roster takes shape, who other than Abreu will make it?
With their being for sure locks moving toward April 1, there are also a few dark horses that could end up slipping onto the roster. Although the roster will have a few options in play once Odorizzi, Baez and Scrubb are ready to return, the team is in a spot to either designate a player for assignment, trade or move someone like Framber Valdez to the 60-day injured list, depending on his timetable to return. While the pitching staff will probably go the traditional 13 route, here is who seems best fit to start the season.
Starting pitchers: Zack Greinke, Cristian Javier, Lance McCullers Jr.,
Jose Urquidy and Luis Garcia
While the team could’ve looked to some future, Forrest Whitley went down with Tommy John surgery, and if the Astros’ don’t start his service time, they are better off burning a 40-man roster spot for him. With that said, Manager Dusty Baker announced that the Opening Series would go Greinke, Javier, McCullers Jr. and Urquidy in that order. Don’t take this as a list by talent but by availability and possible matchups. Garcia and Bielak could be interchangeable, but Garcia has had more success recently, even though he might see better fit as a long reliever some day. The two are both going to be two-way pitchers this season and will most likely see minor league time soon.
Bullpen: Joe Smith, Enoli Paredes, Brandon Bielak, Brooks Raley,
Blake Taylor, Bryan Abreu, Ryne Stanek and Ryan Pressly
This is a very chalk prediction, but all these pitchers were locks on the roster other than Abreu and Bielak, who will most likely be optioned in the near future. While the bullpen looks to bounce back from a struggling young core of 2020, Stanek and Baez were added for experience, while Smith is making his return from an opt-out. Josh James and Austin Pruitt are both working back to be possible contributors in the bullpen, and while this could be a good issue to have with an abundance of arms, the team is relying on average numbers and developing prospects to get by. While their is talent there, Pressly will need to find his All-Star ways once again to round out this group.
Catcher: Martin Maldonado and Jason Castro
After the signing of Jason Castro, it was obvious the team solidified their back stops. Although moving with three catchers in 2020, it makes the most sense that the experience of Martin Maldonado and Castro will be enough. Rosters do expand for double headers and the postseason, so don’t count Garrett Stubbs out just yet, while he has a few versatile tools behind him.
Infielders: Yuli Gurriel, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa,
Aledmys Diaz and Robel Garcia
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While from first base to third base, the roster is pretty much set across the infield, but this leaves two spots for utility players. Aledmys Diaz is a lock, only if he is fully healthy. While recently nursing a small leg injury, the utility man has become a fan speculation to be traded to free up payroll. With that being said, one more utility spot is open for either Robel Garcia or Abraham Toro, and by the looks of Garcia taking reps across the whole infield and left field, he looks to be the last man in.
Outfielders: Michael Brantley, Myles Straw, Kyle
Tucker, Yordan Alvarez (DH) and Chas McCormick
Like most of the Astros’ starting nine, the roster has been set for weeks, months, and for certain positions, years, but for the outfield, the fourth spot is a toss up. While managing a 40-man roster without an outfielder in the minor leagues, the Astros are in a predicament if someone falls to injury. Although Diaz and Garcia can help out in left field, centerfield has become the pondering fit. Myles Straw will need help down the stretch, and while Chas McCormick hasn’t had the best spring, he could be the best fit.
While McCormick hasn’t played much centerfield, the Astros are also evaluating Tucker and Jose Siri, who has been lacking at the plane but extraordinary in the field. Another issue would be freeing up a 40-man spot for Siri, while a possible pitcher could be in danger. Nonetheless, Baker did announce on Sunday that Bryan De La Cruz was also in the running, although banged up from running into Zach Daniels on a ‘B’ game, but the team is also exploring waiver claims for a possible fourth outfielder, and even pitching.
As well, the Astros did send out a few regulars in a ‘B’ game on Saturday against the Washington Nationals. They are back on the field on Monday for the last game of spring training against the Nationals with Jake Odorizzi on the bum, and also Joe Smith is scheduled to pitch. Cristian Javier (five innings), Ryan Pressly, Blake Taylor and Ryne Stanek are all scheduled for a ‘B’ game on Sunday, while Lance McCullers Jr. will do a sim game on Monday.
Myles Straw was also scratched from Saturday’s game due to health and safety protocols. There is no further information on the centerfielder, but he is still in play for Opening Day unless more information is released. Garrett Stubbs and Abraham Toro were also among the players out due to health and safety protocols, while they could be cleared by either Monday or Tuesday.