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Projecting the Astros 2011 Roster

What might the Astros roster look like on Opening Day?

If it's good enough for Brian McTaggart, it's good enough for me.

We are still pretty far from spring training. Pitchers and catchers report to camp on February 16 and the first game will be played on February 28, but it's never too early to predict who will be on the Opening Day roster, right?

Many of the starting spots are already locked up, so let's get them out of the way quickly.

Catcher - Jason Castro

Second Base - Bill Hall

Third Base - Chris Johnson

Shortstop - Clint Barmes

Center field - Michael Bourn

Right field - Hunter Pence

No surprises there. I could see Castro splitting time with Humberto Quintero if he doesn't get off to a hot start at the plate, but otherwise, that looks right.

As for the rotation, most of those spots are set too.

SP1 - Brett Myers

SP2 - Wandy Rodriguez

SP3 - J.A. Happ

SP4 - Bud Norris

Again, not anything too world-shaking there. The order could fall off a bit, as Wandy could emerge as the No. 1 starter. In fact, manager Brad Mills may sequence them Wandy-Myers-Happ, just to break up the lefties. Norris should have a lock on that fourth spot, but if he has a terrible spring, he could get bumped.

The two starting spots up for grabs right now are left field and first base.

First base - Brett Wallace

Left field - Carlos Lee

I still see Wallace winning this job. Earlier this offseason, TCB did some work on what's wrong with Wallace. If he does have a mechanical issue with his swing, it'll be apparent whether he fixed it or not in the spring. I'm sure the Astros are going to give him every chance to win this job.

SP5 - Ryan Rowland-Smith

Yes, he may have been the worst pitcher in the majors last season. I'm intrigued by the possibility of Aneury Rodriguez winning this job too, as he may have more upside in the long run. Still, Rowland-Smith wasn't as bad last season as his number indicate. Moving to Houston and the National League may make him a passable starter at the back end of the rotation.

What happens in the bullpen?

Closer - Brandon Lyon

Setup - Wilton Lopez

Long relief - Nelson Figueroa

Middle relief - Aneury Rodriguez

Middle relief - Enerio Del Rosario

Lefty - Sergio Escalona

Lefty - Fernando Abad

This is the hardest area to project, because the Astros have a ton of options. Both of the Rule 5 picks could end up here, but I don't see Pendleton making the team. Houston may still hold onto him, sending him to Oklahoma City after trading the Yankees something to keep him. Lopez should hold onto the setup job for now, but that could easily go to someone like Rodriguez if Lopez falters.

I also penciled Figueroa into the bullpen, but that could get shuffled around if Rowland-Smith loses the fifth starter job to him. In that case, Abad may not make the team and someone like Jeff Fulchino or Henry Villar could take that middle relief spot, with Rowland-Smith functioning as a second left and the long reliever.

Del Rosario's job is basically a coin toss. It could be him, Alberto Arias, David Carpenter, Fulchino, Mark Melancon or Wesley Wright. If I had to bet, it'd come down to Del Rosario and Melancon, but that's just a guess.

For the bench?

Catcher - Humberto Quintero

Infield - Angel Sanchez

Infield - Matt Downs

Outfield - Jason Michaels

Outfield - Brian Bogusevic

That only gives the Astros one lefty off the bench in Bogusevic, but they don't have a lot of options. Of the guys on the 40-man roster, only Jimmy Paredes offers a lefty bat on the infield, and he's nowhere near ready to make the big leagues. Another possibility is the Astros pick up someone near the end of the spring to provide a second lefty bat on the infield, at the expense of someone like Matt Downs.

Toughest omissions? Jason Bourgeois and Tommy Manzella. Bourgeois provides a ton of versatility in the outfield and is the second-best base runner on the team (Bill Hall notwithstanding). But, the reason I went with Bogusevic is that he can also play multiple spots in the outfield, is a pretty good baserunner himself and has a little more pop than Bourgeois.

I also left off Manzella for one reason. If the Astros truly see him as a possible replacement for Barmes at second in case of an injury, do you want Manzella riding the bench or playing every day in Triple-A? Just a guess, but I bet the Astros choose the latter option and bring him up if something happens to Barmes. Sanchez isn't great with the glove, but he should be able to fill in until Keppinger gets back from the disabled list (and after Kepp is then traded).

If Wallace doesn't win the first base job, he's also probably ticketed for Oklahoma City, which opens up another spot in the outfield for Bogusevic or J.B. Shuck.

Picking a couple guys who could have lights-out springs and surprisingly make the roster, I'd go with Henry Villar and J.D. Martinez. Both are older prospects who could turn it on in big league camp. If Wallace gets sent down, it would open the door for Martinez to make a splash and win the left field job outright. Villar could also take advantage of any faltering by Lopez to grab a setup spot. I don't think either will happen, but the spring can be unpredictable.

What do you think? What changes would you make? Are there any other guys that could surprise and make the roster? Anyone you'd leave off?

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