We are only four days away from Opening Day! With the Astros officially set to kick off their road to a repeat, the first game may look a little different. Houston has been struck by the injury bug, and they can't just pencil in their best players in the best order and call it a day as they were able to do for much of 2022.
Jose Altuve won't be the Opening Day second baseman for the first time in 11 years. Michael Brantley is also missing from the lineup. Dusty Baker mentioned a couple of prospects in Justin Dirden and Corey Julks potentially hitting their way onto the roster, but would they actually start on Opening Day? Has Jake Meyers done enough to merit a start?
Let's give it a shot at predicting who takes the field for Houston in game one of 162.
1) Jeremy Peña SS
2) Kyle Tucker RF
3) Alex Bregman 3B
4) Yordan Alvarez DH
5) José Abreu 1B
6) Chas McCormick LF
7) Jake Meyers CF
8) Mauricio Dubón 2B
9) Martín Maldonado C
Without Altuve's free-swinging power in the leadoff spot, it's likely Baker will turn to his shortstop who possesses a similar approach at the plate. As long as Altuve is out, Peña gives Houston another threat that will prevent opposing starters from a get-me-over fastball to ease into their outing.
The second spot will be one that is closely monitored throughout the season, but with Altuve and Brantley out, Kyle Tucker should command as many at-bats as possible. I actually think Bregman should bat second and Tucker third, but would guess that Dusty will roll them out in this order.
Tucker also brings power and base running from the two-hole. Like Peña, he will be a catalyst to get the Astros offense rolling early. Breggy and Alvarez could flip in the three and four hole, but their positions should be set in stone.
Abreu will absolutely man first base for the Astros and will be a 100-RBI candidate from the five-spot all season. The sixth through ninth spots in the order is where things get iffy.
Chas McCormick solidified himself as an at-worst, league average hitter last season. I do think he could have a breakout season this year, but he's more of an 8-hitter than a 6. Jake Meyers brings similar questions. His defense is phenomenal and he flies on the basepaths, but he's not the thumper the Astros had batting seventh in years prior.
He has looked closer to his 2021 debut form than his 2022 form, recording plenty of quality contact even in outs.
But again, if Altuve and Brantley are healthy, the sixth and seventh spots are occupied. Chas and Jake would bat lower in the order. Spots 1-5 will really have to carry the load while these two answer the bell until Houston is healthy.
The eighth and ninth spots are anemic. Dubon can't hit, but according to Chandler Rome, the Astros view him as a better defensive option at second base than David Hensley, so he likely starts there behind Valdez. If he was Justin Verlander's "personal center fielder" last year, is he Valdez' "personal second baseman" this season?
Hopefully Hensley gets the lion's share of the starts, but my money is on Dubon for the first game.
Maldy will round out the order and catch. Anything he brings offensively is an added bonus, but his defense and game calling make him a lock to be the primary catcher.
Where do you disagree, and if you were calling the shots, who do you put where?