What the Houston Astros’ 2022 Opening Day Lineup Should Look Like After Carlos Correa’s Departure

A long offseason is mercifully coming to an end for the Houston Astros. Not only have the Astros been forced to marinate on their six-game loss to the Atlanta Braves in the 2021 World Series, but they had to endure the loss of star shortstop Carlos Correa, who inked a three-year deal with the Minnesota Twins days following the lockout’s conclusion.

However, hope is on the horizon in Houston. Even without Correa, the ‘Stros still boast a powerful lineup that should make them AL West favorites once again. Though will it be enough to deliver the franchise to its fourth World Series appearance in six seasons?

With Opening Day exactly one week away, here’s what you can expect to see when manager Dusty Baker turns in his first lineup card of the season.

Jose Altuve will lead a familiar trio sitting atop the Astros’ lineup

Houston Astros stars Jose Altuve, Michael Brantley, and Alex Bregman stand at attention during the national anthem.
Jose Altuve #27, Michael Brantley #23, and Alex Bregman #2 of the Houston Astros look on during the national anthem. | Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images

1. Jose Altuve (2B), 2. Michael Brantley (LF), 3. Alex Bregman (3B)

Following CF George Springer’s departure last offseason, Baker slid Altuve up from his regular two-spot into the leadoff role. The seven-time All-Star responded by hitting .278 with 31 home runs, tying a career high in the power department. Expect the 5-foot-6 Altuve to lead off once again in 2022, even if he’s no longer racking up over 200 hits and stealing 50 bags.

Brantley is one of Houston’s elder statesmen. The 34-year-old is a hitting machine, securing a .300 average in each of his first three years with the Astros. He may not possess much power anymore (eight home runs in 121 games last season) or speed (six combined steals across the last three seasons), but Brantley is a dependable lefty bat who will work counts and put the ball in play before Houston’s heavy hitters step into the box.

Speaking of heavy hitters, there are a few options for the three-spot. The most popular option last year was Bregman, even though the 28-year-old hasn’t played at an All-Star level since 2019. At his best, Bregman is a 30-homer slugger who walks more than he strikes out and hits for a high average. But health is the big issue, as the seventh-year vet missed 71 games in ’21 due to a hand injury and a strained quad.

With Correa now in Minnesota, there’s more pressure on these three vets to stay on the field and perform at a high level. Especially for Bregman, who smacked just 18 dingers across the last two seasons.

Houston’s top-three returning hitters will occupy the middle of the order

4. Yordan Alvarez (DH), 5. Yuli Gurriel (1B), 6. Kyle Tucker (RF)

It’s hard to believe that Alvarez is still just 24 years old. The 6-foot-5 slugger won a Rookie of the Year award in 2019 and slugged 33 homers in 2021 with a 2020 largely lost due to injury. While strikeouts became a bit of a concern last year (145 in 144 games), Alvarez is one of baseball’s best natural hitters. 40 home runs isn’t out of the question for the towering lefty.

Gurriel is a late bloomer, making his MLB debut at age 32 in 2016. Although he’ll turn 38 this June, the first baseman is coming off of a league-leading .319 batting average in 2021. The Cuban is far from a typical 1B as he hits for a high average and has only ecliped 18 homers once. But the Astros know what they’re going to get with Gurriel in the five-spot, which should be his home in the lineup for the bulk of the season.

Fianlly, there’s a real possibility that Houston’s top hitter will start in the six-hole. Tucker’s second year as a starter couldn’t have gone any better, as the outfielder slashed .294/.359/.557 with 30 homers and a team-high 147 OPS+. At 25 years old, Tucker possesses an enormous ceiling. Assuming he continues to progress, he could quickly move up the order as the year moves along.

Between Alvarez and Tucker, the Astros have two elite lefty bats. Now add the ageless Gurriel, and you can bet pitchers will sweat even more once they make it past Houston’s first three hitters.

The Astros are counting on Jeremy Pena to fill Correa’s spot at shortstop

7. Chas McCormick (CF), 8. Jeremy Pena (SS), C Martin Maldonado (C)

There’s an obvious dropoff from the first six batters to now, but McCormick is hoping to change that. With Myles Straw now with the Cleveland Guardians, the 26-year-old Pennsylvania native is in line to serve as Houston’s Opening Day center fielder. While Straw provided speed, McCormick offers surprising power, clubbing 14 homers in only 320 plate appearances as a rookie in 2021.

Speaking of rookies, there’s a good chance Houston’s replacement for Correa will be making his Major League debut on April 7. Pena, 24, is the organization’s top-ranked prospect according to MLB.com. Although his glove may come around before his bat, Baker should give the rookie plenty of chances to keep the starting job over lower-upside veterans like Aledmys Diaz and Niko Goodrum.

Finally, the Astros will enter the season with Maldonado and Jason Castro behind the dish. The starting nod decisively leans toward the former, who strung together over 400 plate apperances in 2021. At 35, Maldonado’s best days are behind him, evident by his .172 average and .573 OPS last year. But his defensive abilities should make him Dusty’s go-to backstop to round out the lineup.

This Astros lineup has a chance to be one of baseball’s best, even with Correa out of the picture. Should Bregman return to normal, Tucker continue his ascension, and Pena prove he belongs, Houston will once again be a World Series favorite.

All statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference.

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