Penciling in 25-man roster a cinch for Hinch

Few position battles remain for Astros entering Spring Training

Penciling in 25-man roster a cinch for Hinch

With Spring Training fast approaching, takes a look at a different aspect of this year's Astros squad each day this week. Today's topic: Predicting the 25-man roster.

HOUSTON -- Barring injuries or any other strange occurrences during the Astros' six-week stay in West Palm Beach, Fla., the team's 25-man roster appears pretty close to set.

There should be few roster battles heading into camp, which is a nice problem for manager A.J. Hinch to have. The acquisition of catcher Brian McCann, outfielders Josh Reddick, Carlos Beltran and Norichika Aoki and starting pitcher Charlie Morton give Hinch veterans to fill in around a talented young core.

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"I understand our roster looks set, but things can happen," Hinch said. "Guys can earn at-bats, they can earn opportunities. We can change the structure of our roster if need be. This is what a team that's going into the season profiled to be good, that has a lot of depth, is supposed to feel like. It should be hard to crack our team. The message to the younger guys is play as well as you can and make us make a tough decision."

If things fall as expected and the Astros carry 12 pitchers to start the season, there would be one open spot for a handful of position players that includes A.J. Reed, Tony Kemp, Tyler White, Preston Tucker, Teoscar Hernandez and Colin Moran.

"We sort of have a good idea this year, more than ever before, of who's going to be on the 25-man roster," general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "There's a few spots up for grabs, so it's really about how the whole group comes together."

Here's a prediction of what the 25-man roster will look like on Opening Day:

Astros roster looks set for 2017

Catcher (2): McCann and Evan Gattis. Barring an injury, the Astros will have a catching duo that combined to hit 52 homers last year, giving them power from both sides of the plate.

First base (2): Yulieski Gurriel and White. First base has been a revolving door for the Astros, but Gurriel should provide stability. White can play first and third, and he's shown some impressive flashes with his bat.

Second base (1): Jose Altuve. One of the game's best hitters, Altuve, a two-time American League batting champion, remains entrenched at second at Minute Maid Park.

Altuve on roster, 2017 outlook

Third base (1): Alex Bregman. The Astros expect big things from Bregman in his first full season in the Majors.

Shortstop (1): Carlos Correa. He'll play most of his season at 22 years old and could be on the cusp of becoming one of the game's great players.

Utility (1): Marwin Gonzalez. The versatile switch-hitter started at first base (74 games), third base (16), left field (14) second base (eight) and shortstop (six) last season.

Designated hitter (1): Beltran. The 19-year veteran returns to Houston on a one-year deal and should get most of the at-bats at DH while chasing his first ring. Gattis will get at-bats at DH, too.

Astros bolster lineup

Outfield (4): George Springer, Reddick, Aoki and Jake Marisnick. Beltran will see time in left field, but Springer, Reddick and Marisnick are Gold Glove-caliber defenders, with Springer moving to center to make room for Reddick in right.

Starting rotation (5): Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh, Lance McCullers, Mike Fiers and Morton. The health of Keuchel and McCullers and will be the key, but McHugh, Fiers and Morton provided experienced depth. Don't count out Joe Musgrove.

Bullpen (7): Ken Giles, Luke Gregerson, Will Harris, Tony Sipp, James Hoyt, Chris Devenski and Michael Feliz. This is an experienced group that returns intact from last year. If they get a consistent Giles and a bounce-back year from Sipp, look out.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.