Astros Opening Day roster projection 2.0: Top reliever absent, new starter emerging?

Opening Day is less than three weeks away.

Houston Astros starting pitcher Cristian Javier (53) pitches
Houston Astros starting pitcher Cristian Javier (53) pitches / Rhona Wise-USA TODAY Sports
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Houston Astros manager Joe Espada is going to have some difficult decisions in the coming days. While several players are all but assured to be part of the team's Opening Day roster, there are still a handful of spots remaining and less than three weeks left until the New York Yankees come to H-Town.

The Astros have done a good job during the offseason to shore up the back end of the bullpen, but a number of innings will be left to cover after the departures of Hector Neris, Ryne Stanek, and Phil Maton.

Justin Verlander's eventual placement on the injured list will force Espada to find a new Opening Day starter and fill that spot in the rotation. The Astros skipper also has an opening in the bullpen due to a forgotten suspension that was handed down last fall. How is the Astros Opening Day roster shaping up with a few weeks left until the start of the 2024 season?

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Astros Opening Day infield (9)

  • Jose Altuve
  • Alex Bregman
  • Jeremy Peña
  • Jose Abreu
  • Mauricio Dubón
  • Victor Caratini
  • Grae Kessinger
  • Yainer Diaz
  • David Hensley

The starting lineup is set, right? Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Jeremy Peña, and Jose Abreu will be lining up on the infield dirt to start the season on March 28. Behind the plate, the duo of Victor Caratini and Yainer Diaz will be splitting time with the latter working as the Astros' primary backstop in 2024.

But the bench is where the question marks come into play. Mauricio Dubón is a lock to occupy a myriad of spots on the diamond. The Astros' top utility player, who won a Gold Glove last season, will see time on the infield dirt and the outfield grass in 2024.

Trey Cabbage was a nice pickup this spring, but the former Los Angeles Angels slugger has looked abysmal at the plate and will need to go back to the minors to start the 2024 season. Grae Kessinger hasn't looked great either, but the 26-year-old has routinely displayed a patient approach at the dish, and will be in line to grab one of the final bench spots.

David Hensley and Jon Singleton will be fighting for a spot on the Astros bench as well. Singleton is limited defensively and has struggled this spring, while Hensley can play multiple positions. A slight edge goes to Hensley, but aside from Dubón, it's anyone's guess as to how the final two bench spots are handed out.