The Astros released Carlos Correa from his contract on December 20, 2018. This leaves the outfield and infield positions vacant for next season with just one spot left to fill in 2019. Here is what a possible lineup would look like if they were to fill those roles this offseason with free agents or through trades.

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

The Houston Astros’ lengthy offseason is finally coming to a conclusion. Not only have the Astros had to cope with the fallout from their six-game World Series defeat to the Atlanta Braves in 2021, but they’ve also had to deal with the loss of star shortstop Carlos Correa, who signed a three-year contract with the Minnesota Twins just days after the lockout ended.

In Houston, though, there is reason to be optimistic. Even without Correa, the ‘Stros have a strong lineup that should put them back in the AL West race. Will it, however, be enough to get the team to its fourth World Series participation in six years?

Here’s what you can expect to see when manager Dusty Baker submits his first lineup card of the season, which is precisely one week away.

Jose Altuve will head a familiar trio of Astros hitters at the top of the order.

Houston Astros stars Jose Altuve, Michael Brantley, and Alex Bregman stand at attention during the national anthem.

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

Jose Altuve (2B), Michael Brantley (LF), and Alex Bregman are the top three players in the league (3B)

Following the departure of CF George Springer last offseason, Baker promoted Altuve from his customary two-spot to the leadoff slot. The seven-time All-Star retaliated by hitting.278 with 31 home runs, matching a career best for power. Even if he doesn’t smash over 200 home runs or steal 50 bases, the 5-foot-6 Altuve is expected to lead off again in 2022.

Brantley is regarded as one of Houston’s doyens. The 34-year-old is a.300 hitter who has hit safely in each of his first three seasons with the Astros. 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. He may not have much power (eight home runs in 121 games last season) or speed (six combined steals over the last three seasons), but he is a dependable lefty bat who will work counts and put the ball in play before Houston’s heavy hitters step into the box.

There are a few alternatives for the three-spot when it comes to powerful hitters. Even though the 28-year-old hasn’t played at an All-Star level since 2019, Bregman was the most popular selection last year. Bregman, at his peak, is a 30-homer hitter who walks more than he strikes out and has a good batting average. However, health is a major concern for the veteran, who missed 71 games last season due to a hand ailment and a strained quad.

With Correa now in Minnesota, the three veterans are under even greater pressure to remain on the field and play well. Especially for Bregman, who has only hit 18 home runs in the previous two seasons.

The middle of the order will be occupied by Houston’s top three returning batters.

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Kyle Tucker (DH), Yordan Alvarez (DH), Yuli Gurriel (1B), and Yordan Alvarez (DH) (RF)

It’s difficult to think Alvarez is just 24 years old. The 6-foot-5 slugger was named Rookie of the Year in 2019 and hit 33 home runs in 2021, after missing much of 2020 due to injuries. While Alvarez’s strikeouts were an issue last season (145 in 144 games), he is one of baseball’s greatest natural hitters. For the towering lefty, 40 home runs aren’t out of the question.

Gurriel is a late bloomer, having debuted in Major League Baseball at the age of 32 in 2016. Despite the fact that he will be 38 years old in June, the first baseman is coming off a league-leading.319 hitting average in 2021. The Cuban is not your normal first baseman, since he has a good average and has only hit 18 home runs once. The Astros, on the other hand, know what they’re getting with Gurriel in the five-hole, where he’ll stay for the most of the season.

In fact, there’s a good chance that Houston’s best hitter will open the season in the six-hole. Tucker’s second season as a starter went off without a hitch, as the outfielder slashed. With 30 home runs and a team-high 147 OPS+, he hit 294/.359/.557. Tucker, who is 25 years old, should only aim to improve and, if he does, may rapidly get into the top three.

The Astros have two top left-handed batters in Alvarez and Tucker. When you throw in the ageless Gurriel, you can know that after pitchers get through Houston’s first three batters, they’ll be sweating even more.

Jeremy Pena is expected to take Correa’s place at shortstop for the Astros.

Chas McCormick, Chas McCormick (CF), Jeremy Pena, Jeremy Pena, Jeremy Pena, Jeremy Pena, Jeremy Pena, Jeremy Pena, Jeremy Pena, Jeremy Pena (C)

From the first six hitters until today, there’s a noticeable dropoff, but McCormick is aiming to remedy that. Myles Straw, a 26-year-old Pennsylvania native who is presently with the Cleveland Guardians, is expected to be Houston’s Opening Day center fielder. McCormick, like Straw, has surprising power, hitting 14 home runs in his 320 plate appearances as a rookie in 2021.

On the subject of rookies, Houston’s replacement for Carlos Correa is expected to make his Major League debut on April 7. According to MLB.com, Pena, 24, is the organization’s top prospect. Baker should give him plenty of opportunities to maintain the starting position over lower-upside veterans like Aledmys Diaz and Niko Goodrum, even if his glove comes around before his bat.

Finally, Maldonado and Jason Castro will start the season as the Astros’ starting pitchers. In 2021, the starting nod goes to the former, who racked up more than 400 plate appearances. Maldonado’s greatest days are behind him at 35, as seen by his.172 batting average and.573 on-base percentage last season. Dusty’s go-to backstop to finish out the lineup should be him because of his defensive qualities.

Even with Correa now in Minnesota, this Astros lineup has a shot to be one of the best in baseball. Houston will be a World Series favorite once again if Bregman returns to form, Tucker continues his climb, and Pena proves he belongs.

Baseball Reference provided all statistics.

RELATED: When and Why Did the 2005 National League Champions, the Houston Astros, Switch to the American League?

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