Astros under the Radar for the 2009 Season

Chad VarndellContributor IMarch 25, 2009

BRADENTON, FL - MARCH 8:  Infielder David Newhan #31 of the Houston Astros throws to first base against the Pittsburgh Pirates March 8, 2009 at McKechnie Field in Bradenton, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

Since their appearance in the 2005 World Series, the Astros have constantly been given very low expectations, preseason. This season is no different, with many figuring the Astros will only be a .500 team. However, I believe that if the teams stays somewhat healthy, it have a real chance to surprise some people.

Pitching remains the main concern for Houston in the upcoming season. I think that pitching will determine much of the success this season. I also believe though, that this staff is very underrated in its depth. Oswalt, Wandy, and Hampton are surefire starters and should pitch well this year. The fourth and fifth spots are up for grabs with Chris Sampson, Brian Moehler, and Russ Ortiz as the possible suitors for those spots. Let's also not forget that Brandon Backe will get healthy and provide another starter. The bullpen is also very deep. The Astros will at least two lefties in Wesley Wright and Tim Byrdak, and the seven-eight-nine will be manned by veterans Doug Brocail, Latroy Hawkins, and Jose Valverde.

The lineup that Houston will field has a lot of balance and leadership. The key additions of Ivan Rodriguez and Jason Michaels provide power, along with their leadership. Of course, you also have the veteran power of Berkman, Lee, and Tejada, along with the youth and speed of Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn. Bourn has yet to prove himself a consistent major league hitter, but I think that will come sooner than later. Maybe the most important part of the team is their bench. Michaels provides insurance if Bourn struggles in center, and Darin Erstad provides a very solid bat late in games.

All in all this year could be special for the Astros. Will they win the World Series, I doubt it, but I do think they will win 90 games and they will make the playoffs.