Now that the every day lineup is set, how does the bench look? First, let’s just look at that lineup as to where they get the most starts in the field:
DH - Brantley
C - Maldanado
1b - Abreu
2b - Altuve
ss - Pena
3b - Bregman
RF - Tucker
CF - Chas
LF - Alvarez
That’s a great lineup.
The Astros can only carry 13 pitchers, which means four additional non-pitchers will be added to the roster. The following players are both on the 40-man and not projected to be starters: Mauricio Dubon, Jake Meyers, Korey Lee, David Hensley, Yianer Diaz, Joe Perez, Rylan Bannon, and JJ Matijevic.
If the Astros don’t make additions and there are no injuries, the four bench players would be the first four listed here. The lack of chatter about an Aledmys Diaz replacement signals that the Astros believe what everyone saw in September and October: Hensley can do the job. That’s a bench that includes speed, OF defense, two infielders, and a catcher. Of the next four players on the 40-man, only Bannon would be a glove-first option. The others are guys whose ticket to Houston is in their bat. Their best chance to make the team probably involves making a strong spring impression that their hitting merits inclusion on the MLB team. Injuries, of course, mean everyone moves up a rung.
What about guys not on the 40-man? The most likely to make the team is Pedro Leon, the toolsy Cuban outfielder who has moonlighted at SS. He has electric speed and a canon of an arm. Although he’s still a little raw at the plate, he’s shown plate discipline. He’s also turning 25 by Memorial Day and has almost 600 combined PAs at AAA. The case could be made that his defense and base running outpace Dubon’s, whose .252 OBP and 59 wRC+ in 2022 hardly make the argument that Dubon’s bat is the reason to keep him on the team. Dubon (28) is who he is at this point, whereas Leon might grow into something in Houston.
Dubon’s positional flexibility provides value. The only other bench player with similar flex is David Hensley, who can play all four infield positions and would probably be fine if thrown into LF. Still, it’s hard to see how the bench rounds out without Dubon or Leon on it.
If Lee, Hensley, Dubon or Meyers underperform due to injury or some other circumstance, Y Diaz, Bannon, Perez, Matijevic, and Pedro Leon would be next in line. Other possibilities not on the 40-man include Corey Julks and Justin Dirden. Julks swatted 31 HRs and stole 22 bags in Sugar Land. He’ll be 27 in two months. Dirden was a 2020 free-agent signing who did nothing but crush baseballs across three levels in 2021-22. Until he got to AAA, where he walked less, K’d more, and lost a good deal of power.
It needs to be emphasized that those not on the 40-man are on the outside looking in. They need to convince the front office that they’re worth a slot, that someone else might get exposed to the waiver wire.