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Astros spring training: How the Houston bench was made

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What have the Astros done in years past to fill out their bench?

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Things got clearer at third base on Wednesday.

At least, long-held spring suspicions became confirmed. Luis Valbuena will be your starter at third base this season and Matt Dominguez is competing for a bench role.

We've talked in the past about how Houston could utilize its bench and the decision to only carry one extra outfielder. That will probably leave Matty D outside of the 25-man roster when things are finalized in a couple of weeks.

Since continuing to talk about it will do us little more good, let's look at how the Astros portioned out the bench since moving to the American League.

In 2014, nine bench players had 89 or more plate appearances. Of those, three were outfielders, one was a catcher, three were infielders and two were true utility players, going into the infield and the outfield.

In 2013, 10 bench players had 100 or more plate appearances. A couple of those (Brett Wallace, Robbie Grossman) weren't technically bench guys, but didn't play whole seasons. Another (Justin Maxwell) was hurt and then traded. That leaves six players who were "backups." Of those, one was a catcher, two were outfielders, two were infielders and one was a utility man.

In 2012, 10 bench players had 100 or more plate appearances. Of those, four guys either gained or lost jobs after limited playing time (Wallace, Maxwell, Matt Dominguez and Fernando Martinez). Of the rest, one was a catcher, one was an outfielder and four were infielders.

Here's a crazy note, though. Marwin Gonzalez started 76 of the 103 games he appeared in last season. Alex Presley started 67 of his 89 appearances. Marc Krauss started 55 of his 67 games.

Maybe that's not crazy. Bench guys in the AL are there more for spot starts than they are for pinch-hitting or pinch-running duties. It makes sense, then, that they start most of their appearances.

But, even in a small sample, we can see the Astros preference for AL roster building. They usually carry one infielder, two outfielders and one catcher. Of course, that changes during the season. As you can see by the playing time, there are points where Houston carries one outfielder and two or three infielders.

If we're pointing to the seven bench options who will play the most for Houston this year, the list includes all the names Hinch listed on Wednesday. Matt Dominguez, Marwin Gonzalez, Alex Presley, Hank Conger, Jonathan Villar, Evan Gattis and Robbie Grossman probably make up the entirety of that list. Barring a trade, that is, as Dominguez could draw some interest if he doesn't make the team.

As for who breaks camp? Well, that may not matter. It could change within a couple weeks. Ask Jason Smith about that.