The Astros are in a tough spot right now as their only World Series title is marred in controversy, they’ve lost first and second round draft picks for the next two years, and their farm system has made its way down to the bottom third of most industry rankings. When Jeff Lunhow decided to use his prospects to build the big league team, one has to think that he was expecting more than a single championship. That didn’t come to pass and now Houston, and new GM James Click, is potentially bordering on a rebuild. 2020 and 2021 will see the end of the current contracts of several of Houston’s superstars and uncertainty abounds. Here is a position-by-position breakdown on what position players could make up the 26-man roster for 2022 and beyond (all ages are current as of this writing). I will look to address the pitching staff in my next post.
Maldonado will be behind the dish in Houston for the duration of this exercise, however there is no clear cut backup. Garneau is a career journeyman and Stubbs has failed to impress in a small sample size. 2019 first round pick Lee is the Astros’ catcher of the future and will turn 24 in July of 2022. If he continues to perform as well as he did in his 2019 debut (.268/.359/.371), then there should be nothing standing in his way on Opening Day 2022.
Yuli Gurriel – Age: 35; signed through 2020 (still has two years of arbitration remaining after 2020)
This one is a bit tougher to discern as Gurriel has only gotten stronger with age but he will turn 38 in 2022, so some decline should be expected. Jones is a bit old for a prospect, but was a revelation in AAA in 2019. Toro, a natural 3B, moved ahead of Jones in the prospect-pecking order but won’t be a regular at 3B as long as Alex Bregman calls Houston home. Toro could also fill a utility role, but I think 1B is in his future.
Jose Altuve – Age: 30; signed through 2024
Barring a catastrophe, there is no doubt that Altuve will man the keystone in 2022. That will give time for prospects like Santana and Valdez to gain experience as the move up the ladder looking to that potential 2025 starting job.
Carlos Correa – Age: 25; arbitration-eligible through 2021
When healthy, Carlos Correa has been an absolute star at shortstop. Unfortunately, the 2015 AL ROY award-winner has only eclipsed 422 at-bats once since 2016. That history might give the new front office pause when thinking about a Correa extension. Pena had a breakout in 2019 and earned an non-roster invite to Spring Training in 2020. This isn’t going to be a popular choice among many Astros fans, but I have a feeling that Houston allows Correa to earn trade value through 2021, makes a deal to strengthen the farm system, uses the potential savings elsewhere, and then hands the keys to Pena in 2022.
Alex Bregman – Age: 26; signed through 2024
Bregman signed a 5-year extension prior to the 2019 season, so he is locked in as the Astros third baseman for the next half-decade. We talked about Toro as a first baseman, so that leaves Perez and Tanielu. I have other ideas for Tanielu, so let’s talk about Perez. There were many teams interested in Perez as a pitcher, but Houston liked his raw power. He has been injured every year since he was drafted (although it was know that he would require Tommy John surgery shortly after the draft), so he has yet to have a chance to really prove himself. Luckily he has util at least 2025 to make that jump.
Michael Brantley – Age: 32; signed though 2020
Brantley has been an absolute revelation for Houston. Taking advantage of a stretch of seasons where he was finally healthy, Brantley was one of the better free agent signings in recent memory. As much as I would love to see him continue to patrol left field in Minute Maid Park until he retires, I don’t think he will still be around in 2022. The best bet for left field going forward is 2019 draftee Brewer. He needs to work on his hit tool, but I like the potential there.
George Springer – Age: 30; signed through 2020
My hope is that by letting Correa go, Springer retires as an Astro. He has been the heart and soul of the team since his major league debut. I don’t see any reason that should change.
Josh Reddick – Age: 33; signed through 2020
The future could start as early as 2020 for Houston in right field. Tucker came back with a much better slash line in 2019 while losing prospect eligibility. Reddick has been fun to watch on the field and in post game interviews, but Tucker will be manning this position sooner rather than later.
Yordan Alvarez – Age: 22; not yet-reached arbitration status
Names to Watch
Alvarez was an absolute steal as the return in the 2016 Astros/Dodgers trade that sent Josh Fields to Los Angeles. The 2019 ROY is not going anywhere and will be a cornerstone of this team for the foreseeable future.
Aledmys Diaz – Age: 29; arbitration eligible through 2022
Names to Watch:
Nick Tanielu – Age: 27
Diaz has been a great pickup for Houston, but as he gets more expensive I think Houston turns to Tanielu. He has nothing left to prove at the minor league level (.295/.346/.444 across 2011 at-bats.) He has experience at every infield position and can continue the Swiss-Army-Knife role on this team in the early 2020s.
Overall Thoughts: Houston is in a relatively strong position in regards to their infield in 2022. Two superstars in Altuve and Bregman, another first round pick in Lee, and solid players with nice hit tools in Pena and Toro. Taylor can also mash and could see time at first base on a Toro off-day. I like this infield. If the Astros can keep Springer, the outfield looks to be in good shape as well. Brewer will have to learn to hit for average and Straw is a great 4th outfielder, but Tucker is starting to erase the doubts created after his brief call-up in 2018.
26-man Roster: Position Players
C: Korey Lee
1B: Abraham Toro
2B: Jose Altuve
SS: Jeremy Pena
3B: Alex Bregman
LF: Jordan Brewer
CF: George Springer
RF: Kyle Tucker
DH: Yordan Alvarez
UT: Nick Tanielu
C: Garrett Stubbs
1B: Taylor Jones
OF: Myles Straw