As remarkable as it may seem, there are few surprises looming for the Astros’ opening day roster.
The Astros still need to trim 21 players to reach the 25-man roster limit for April 1, but only 3-4 players are pushing their way onto Jeff Luhnow’s radar.
Granted, players like Jose Altuve, Chad Qualls, Jason Castro, Dexter Fowler and a handful of others have their tickets punched. For non-roster invitees like Marwin Gonzalez, Peter Moylan, Cesar Izturis, J.D. Martinez and even Jonathan Singleton and George Springer, it’s not such a slam dunk. Not just yet anyway.
- Gonzalez is playing his way onto the roster as either an infield backup or possible spot starter on the left side of the infield.
- At this point, first base or left field is Marc Krauss‘ job to lose. If the season started today, he’d likely hit fourth or fifth.
- Dallas Keuchel — again, to this point — has solidified a position in the rotation, especially since others have not staked their claims. Worst-case scenario: Bullpen swing man.
- While both Springer and Singleton have had a moment or two, neither is forcing Luhnow’s hand. Either or both could just as easily start the season in Oklahoma City.
- Robbie Grossman was expected to be a starter — or at least a 4th outfielder — so wouldn’t classify him as one who is pushing his way onto the roster.
If Luhnow doesn’t deem Springer ready for prime time, he won’t start the clock. And that’s very defensible. It’s just as easy to give him one more month at OKC as to push him into spotlight if he’s hitting only .200 in the spring. Singleton, on the other hand, is on the 40-man and needs to start hitting or other questions will begin surfacing.
Gonzalez, Springer, Moylan, Izturis and Martinez would each need to be added to the 40-man roster (presently full) in order to break camp with the Astros.
Here’s a quick prediction of the opening day roster. The numbers in parentheses represent the number of players in camp and the number the team will likely keep on the 25-man roster. For example, 4/2 for catchers since four are presently in camp and the team will carry two during the regular season.
With 13 games in 13 days to open the season, I’m guessing the Astros will opt to go with 13 pitchers, especially given some of the versatility on the proposed roster (Gonzalez, Krauss, Keuchel, etc.).
- Catchers (4/2): Castro, Carlos Corporan.
- Infielders (11/6): Krauss, Altuve, Jonathan Villar, Matt Dominguez, Chris Carter, Gonzalez.
- Outfielders (8/4): Fowler, L.J. Hoes, Grossman, Springer,
- Pitchers (23/13) starters in bold: Scott Feldman, Jarred Cosart, Brad Peacock, Jerome Williams, Brett Oberholtzer. Qualls, Albers, Anthony Bass, Moylan, Keuchel (swing), Raul Valdes, Josh Fields, Kevin Chapman.
If that roster pans out, that means adding only two players to the 40-man (Springer, Moylan). Still, there are a handful of possible roster busters. These include:
- Singleton. All he needs is a solid final two-week run and he starts the season in Houston. Krauss moves to the OF.
- Harrell. Which Harrell will show up the next few outings? If it’s the one from his most recent start, he’ll be gone, out-of-options notwithstanding.
- Keuchel. Not exactly a roster buster, but if he keeps up the pace in his next 2-3 starts, he could bust into the rotation and force Luhnow and Porter to make a tough decision on others.
- Unknown acquisition. Gonzalez is a good up-the-middle backup, but if Dominguez doesn’t pick up the stick, Luhnow could add another corner.
This could change daily and we can talk about upgrades over 2013 at a later date, but add your two-and-a-half cents and let’s compare rosters.