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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Astros Opening Day starting rotation (5)

  • Framber Valdez
  • Christian Javier
  • Jose Urquidy
  • Hunter Brown
  • Ronel Blanco

The Astros starting rotation is not what fans envisioned upon the close of the 2023 season. Several starters, including Verlander, are headed for the IL, and what was once a strength of the team has more questions than answers heading into 2024.

Valdez is likely to be named the Astros Opening Day starter in the coming days, and he'll surely be followed by Christian Javier and Hunter Brown. Jose Urquidy has done enough this spring to prove that he belongs in the Astros starting rotation, and will likely slot in as the team's No. 3 or 4 starter.

With Verlander out of commission to begin the season, there are questions surrounding the final spot in Houston's rotation. Forrest Whitley has moved into a relief role, so that leaves Ronel Blanco and J.P. France to battle it out for the last spot.

France has been unable to appear in a Grapefruit League game this spring, and with only one off day on the schedule during the first three weeks of the 2024 season, Houston's going to need all hands on deck. With France having not been stretch out yet this spring, don't be surprised to see Blanco grab that final spot in the Astros rotation.

France and Blanco will be battling over the final few weeks of spring to see who gets the nod. There's a chance that the loser could wind up in the bullpen, but there's also the possibility Houston decides to option either pitcher back to Triple-A.