For most of my defense analysis, I took basic observations and matched them up with statistical information made readily available at www.fangraphs.com. Besides taking into account obvious stats like errors and assists, I looked at the statistical evaluations for a player's range, as well as the most influential defense stat amongst modern General Managers, which is UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating).
The Ultimate Zone Rating takes into account a defender's arm, double play capabilities, range and amount of errors in relation to the average at that position in Major League Baseball. To make the stats even more efficient, I used the UZR/150, which calculates the impact players make on defense over 150 game average, which is a fair estimate of how many games most starting players will likely take part in.
Rankings: 1) Red Sox, 2) Yankees, 3) Rays, 4) Orioles and 5) Blue Jays
The Red Sox that take the field at the beginning of the season are going to look nothing like the team that ended the 2010 season, and it will spell big time upgrades in their defensive game. Gone is stud 3B Adrian Beltre, but with Youkilis and Pedroia back, their infield defense should be one of the better units in the league.
Youkilis is not a Gold Glover at 3B, like he is as 1B, but he has solid hands, quick release and a strong arm. Pedroia has good range, quick hands on double plays and had a UZR/150 of almost 10 before being injured last season, which will help with his average middle infield partner, Scutaro. Marco was brought over more for his offense than defense, which is understandable since he struggled again last season and had a UZR/150 of 3.3 runs below average. Rounding out the infield is Adrian Gonzalez, who is a Gold Glove-caliber 1B in his own right.
The other high profile acquisition will also help bolster Boston's defense. Carl Crawford had the highest UZR/150 of any LF in baseball for two years before finishing second to Yankees Brett Gardner last season. Pairing him with Ellsbury in CF, who has exceptional range and a UZR/150 of 21.3 prior to injury, should more than make up for the average defense of JD Drew in RF who doesn't offer much besides a strong throwing arm.
Behind the plate, the Red Sox will continue to struggle whether Saltalamacchia or Varitek win the job.
Yet another category where the Red Sox will battle the Yankees. Despite Gardner being discussed as being the strongest defensive LF in the division, the entire outfield doesn't paint as rosy a picture. Granderson is another solid piece of the puzzle, but he has never had a UZR/150 of more than seven runs above average, which is solid, but not enough to compensate for the below average performance of Swisher in RF. Despite solid range, Swisher is an average defender with a below average arm for the RF position.
The topic that comes up most when looking at the Yankees infield from a defensive point of view is the deteriorating range of Derek Jeter. Any observer can tell you he isn't getting to balls that he used to and his statistical range accounts for almost 12 runs below average at the SS position. However, the rest of the group really picks him up. Cano has solid range for a 2B, but his quick hands are what make him most valuable, which is similar to Rodriguez, who's bulky frame limits this overall range at the hot corner, but he possesses great hands and a strong arm. Across the diamond, former Gold Glover Teixeira had a down year last year, but he still is a big target with quick reflexes who is strong when fielding throws in the dirt.
Lastly, Posada's move to DH will only help the Yankee defense that was really hampered by his poor performance behind the plate. Russell Martin is still more of an offensive catcher, but he should provide a better backstop.
Tampa Bay is always a team that has prided itself on pitching and defense, but some key offseason moves have really put a dent in their defensive armor. Perhaps the biggest change will be losing Crawford. Replacing him with the aging and blow average Johnny Damon, who's arm was never really there and his range is starting to leave him. They Rays hope to hide his deficiencies with two strong OFs in BJ Upton and Ben Zobrist, who was an underrated defender last season, showing above average range and posting a UZR/150 of 11 runs.
The infield will similarly try and cover up one glaring weakness in 1B Dan Johnson, who will be moved from his DH spot with the acquisition of Manny Ramirez. While not having spent much time at 1B, Johnson has displayed below average range and hands. However, the rest of the infield is strong with Evan Longoria a strong player on the hot corner and a solid double play duo in Brignac and Rodriguez.
John Jaso is only average behind the plate, but he rounds out a solid defensive unit.
Baltimore continues its trend of being improved but still not enough. It will field a better overall defense in 2011 but still not one that ranks amongst the top in their division. For all their plus tools, both Adam Jones and Nick Markakis are average defense outfielders. Despite being an above average defender during the 2008 season, Markakis has seen his overall performance dip the last two campaigns, ending with a UZR/150 of almost five last season. Jones, came in very similarly at 4.7 runs below average and while its reasonable to assume that both will improve, they can only be counted on to be average at their positions.
Brian Roberts will be the only returning starter in the infield and although his defense was average last season, he missed half the season with injury and will likely see his performance rise to slightly above average again during a full season. However, despite the lack of continuity, it's the new players that should really improve the Orioles defense.
JJ Hardy is a well above average SS, who despite not being the quickest double play turner, has solid range and good hands and finished last season with a UZR/150 of almost 13. At the corners, both Derrick Lee and Mark Reynolds are more known for their bats than gloves, but both have been above average fielders during their careers and despite Lee's advanced age, he is still an average defender at 1B.
With the likely improvement of Wieters behind the plate, defense should be a strength for the Orioles.
Toronto struggles on the defensive end, which is odd, considering it is a team that is building itself around its pitching. Travis Snider is the team's only well above average defensive player. He doesn't have an exceptional arm for a right fielder, but he has good range and, according to the UZR, his overall defensive game is about 24 runs better than average at his position.
But after that, it's all goes downhill. Snider is flanked in the outfield by newcomers Rajai Davis and Juan Rivera who both displayed below average skills last season. Despite great speed, Davis was almost 15 runs below average last season, while Juan Rivera was just over seven runs below average in left field.
In the infield, their best defender, John MacDonald, is likely to be their infield reserve. Yunel Escobar has the potential to be a solid starting SS, but last season, he was four runs below average at SS, while combining for 18 errors in both leagues and totaling a .969 fielding percentage in his time with the Jays.
He has an above average double play partner in Aaron Hill, who has limited range, but a strong glove and a 4.1 UZR/150 rating. Adam Lind will likely start at first, and he's proved to be a very capable defender during his time there, but offensive leader Jose Bautista was an atrocious 10.4 runs below average at 3B last year. Pair that up with J.P. Arencibia as a slightly above average defensive catcher and you're looking at a middle of the pack defensive team.