Houston Astros Roster
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Houston Astros right-hander Shawn Dubin (shoulder) is dealing with right-shoulder inflammation in camp and will be shut down from throwing for three days. The injury, although it may not be very serious, is going to make it more difficult for Dubin to win a spot in the team's Opening Day bullpen out of spring training. The 28-year-old former 13th-round pick in 2018 out of Georgetown appeared in three games (one start) in his big-league debut for the Astros last year, giving up seven earned runs on 12 hits (one homer) while walking three and striking out 11 in nine innings pitched. Dubin is not on the fantasy radar at all, even if he makes the big-league roster out of camp. He had a rough 6.63 ERA and 1.61 WHIP in 55 2/3 innings at Triple-A Sugar Land last year.
Houston Astros right-hander Justin Verlander (shoulder) will throw another bullpen session on Tuesday with more intensity to move him forward in his rehab, according to manager Joe Espada. Verlander came into spring training behind the team's other pitchers after his right shoulder didn't bounce back properly in the offseason, but he's been throwing low-intensity bullpen sessions in camp, consisting of only fastballs. The Astros haven't ruled the 41-year-old out for the start of the regular season, but it seems more likely than not that he'll open the year on the injured list. Even if Verlander is ready for Opening Day at the end of March, fantasy managers should expect the future Hall of Famer to miss some time at some point in 2024 due to injury. He's a poor bet to stay healthy all year at his age and is no longer the fantasy ace that he once was.
Houston Astros manager Joe Espada said his plan right now is to bat outfielder/designated hitter Yordan Alvarez second in the batting order this year. The ideal top four of Espada's lineup is second baseman Jose Altuve at leadoff, followed by Alvarez, third baseman Alex Bregman and outfielder Kyle Tucker. Alvarez hit mostly out of the third spot last year and is an RBI machine, racking up an incredible 298 RBI in the last three seasons for the Astros. The former American League Rookie of the Year in 2019 could see fewer chances to drive in runs hitting in the two-hole, but it won't be enough to drastically affect his fantasy appeal as one of the best overall hitters in baseball. The 26-year-old is a pretty big injury risk, but he should still come off the board late in the first round or early in the second round of fantasy drafts.
Houston Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander (shoulder) threw a bullpen session on Saturday, according to Brian McTaggart of MLB.com. Verlander hasn't progressed to facing live batters yet, but he is on track and still figures to be ready for Opening Day. The veteran remains a key piece of Houston's entering his age-41 season, just one year removed from a campaign in which he went 13-8 through 27 starts with the Mets and Astros. He was effective at retiring batters once again last year, tallying 7.98 K/9 and 2.49 BB/9 while posting a 3.85 FIP. Barring any sort of injury setback, Verlander continues to be an appealing fantasy baseball option for 2024.
Houston Astros relief pitcher Forrest Whitley (finger) experienced middle finger soreness while warming up for a live bullpen session on Saturday, manager Joe Espada told members of the media, including The Athletic's Chandler Rome. Whitley ultimately skipped his bullpen session and is set to undergo additional evaluation with team doctors. Injuries have put a damper on the young career of Whitley, who was once regarded as a top prospect after being selected in the first round of the 2016 MLB Draft. He posted a solid 9.60 K/9 and 46.8 GB% rate at Triple-A last year but also struggled at times, surrendering 5.10 BB/9 and 1.80 HR/9. Formerly a starter, Whitley is now trying to break camp as a reliever. This latest injury concern adds another obstacle in his long path to the majors.