ASTROS ROSTER (projected)
When the season opens on July 23-24, teams can sport rosters of up to 30 players, with a minimum of 25. Two weeks later, rosters must be reduced to 28 and then, two weeks after that, they must be reduced to 26. Teams will be permitted to add a 27th player for doubleheaders.
In light of that, there is a great degree of latitude for which specific players will break summer camp. For now, though, here are who we expect to be on the Astros roster to begin the season, give or take:
Lance McCullers Jr.
This is, give or take, the Astros team you have come to know and loathe for most of the past few years. The take is the most significant, as in bye-bye Gerrit Cole, bye-bye manager A.J. Hinch, and bye-bye GM Jeff Luhnow. Hello, however to Dusty Baker who is probably better prepared than anyone to wade into a team that dealt with offseason controversy and keep them all focused on the business on the field.
Cole’s absence will be hard to fill, but Lance McCullers returns after missing last season following Tommy John surgery and should help cushion some of that blow. Less certain is how the Astros will deal with several losses to their pitching staff lately. There are a lot of names listed up there on that roster, but several of them — including Closer Roberto Osuna and fellow right-handers Brad Peacock and Austin Pruitt — are unlikely to be available when the team’s season opens Friday. Baker will have to do a lot of plate-spinning with the pen, at least for a while. Yordan Álvarez’s extended absence will require Baker to use other than his best DH option for some time too.
That aside, this is still the Houston dang Astros, and they still have one of the best starters in the game in Justin Verlander and one of the strongest lineups around. Bregman. Altuve. Correa. Guirriel. They’re who they’ve always been and, while a short season is weird, the Oakland Athletics are always frisky, and the Los Angeles Angels are improved, they are likely more than enough to keep the Astros on top of the AL West for another year.
Every team will play 60 games. Teams will be playing 40 games against their own division rivals and 20 interleague games against the corresponding geographic division from the other league. Six of the 20 interleague games will be “rivalry” games.
Astros home stands will be July 24-29 (Mariners, Dodgers), August 10-18 (Giants, Mariners, Rockies), August 24-September 3 (Angels, Athletics, Rangers), and September 15-20 (Rangers, Diamondbacks).