Few spots open on loaded Astros roster

Houston will choose between extra player on bench or 13th pitcher

Few spots open on loaded Astros roster

HOUSTON -- Prior to the start of Spring Training, we took a shot at predicting the Astros' 25-man roster for Opening Day, which is now less than three weeks away. With no major injuries and the lack of position battles in camp, not much has changed.

Houston manager A.J. Hinch did say last week he would like to carry 13 pitchers (and 12 position players) on his roster to start the season, which is bad news for guys like Tyler White, Tony Kemp, A.J. Reed, Teoscar Hernandez and Colin Moran, who are trying to make the team.

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"Our position-player group is tough to crack," Hinch said. "We're going to most likely carry 13 pitchers, and if we do that, it makes the last bench spot very difficult to make. The 13th pitcher versus extra position player will be debated over the next few weeks with White, Kemp, Reed, Teoscar Hernandez, Moran -- guys that all have more service time and have put themselves in good positions."

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With starting pitchers Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers Jr. and Charlie Morton coming off injuries, and with Collin McHugh slowed with "dead arm" early in camp, having another pitcher at his disposal will give Hinch some peace of mind. Joe Musgrove and Mike Fiers are battling for the fifth-starter spot, but Fiers could be shifted to the bullpen and used a swing man.

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

Catcher (2): Brian McCann and Evan Gattis
Gattis was slowed by a sore shoulder early in camp, but he appears to be back to full strength.

First base (1): Yulieski Gurriel
Despite the way Reed has swung the bat this spring, the Astros are committed to Gurriel at first base and have been giving him plenty of reps defensively.

Second base (1): Jose Altuve
Camp hasn't been the same with Altuve away for the World Baseball Classic.

Third base (1): Alex Bregman
Those who think Bregman has to play his way into the starting lineup haven't been paying attention.

Shortstop (1): Carlos Correa
Correa has had a solid showing at third for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic, but he'll be back at short for Houston once he returns.

Utility (1): Marwin Gonzalez
The versatile switch-hitter will split time all over the infield -- and maybe even the outfield -- again this year. He'll play a lot of first base.

Designated hitter (1): Carlos Beltran
Beltran will get a few reps in the outfield to give Hinch the opportunity to use someone else at DH, but the veteran slugger will get most of his at-bats at DH.

Outfield (4): George Springer, Josh Reddick, Norichika Aoki and Jake Marisnick
Beltran will be in the mix, but Hinch has superb defenders on his hands with Springer, Reddick and Marisnick.

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Starting rotation (5): Keuchel, McHugh, McCullers Jr., Morton and Musgrove
It's going to be hard keep Musgrove out of the rotation based on his upside and how well he's pitched this spring.

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Bullpen (8): Ken Giles, Luke Gregerson, Will Harris, Tony Sipp, James Hoyt, Chris Devenski, Michael Feliz and Fiers
Fiers in the bullpen gives Hinch a way to keep both he and Musgrove on the team. Hoyt and Feliz are battling with Jandel Gustave for the final two bullpen spots.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com 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.