Boston Red Sox: 2011 MLB Season Preview

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Boston Red Sox: 2011 MLB Season Preview
J. Meric/Getty Images

BOSTON RED SOX

Last Year: 89-73, 3rd in AL East

Manager: Terry Francona 

PROJECTED LINEUP: 

C- Jarrod Saltalamacchia (S)

1B- Adrian Gonzalez (L)

2B- Dustin Pedroia (R)

3B- Kevin Youkilis (R) 

SS- Marco Scutaro (R)

LF- Carl Crawford (L)

CF- Jacoby Ellsbury (L)

RF- JD Drew (L) 

DH- David Ortiz (L) 

I never thought the Red Sox needed to reload after last year, due to the incredible amount of injuries the team endured. Theo Epstein did away with Adrian Beltre, and picked up two of the best players in baseball.

Without a doubt, the Red Sox have one of the best lineups in baseball. They have speed, the ability to get on base, and work counts. One might complain about the amount of lefties in the lineup, but Crawford and Gonzalez will love hitting in Fenway. Gonzalez had been putting up great numbers in the worst hitter's park in baseball. The only glaring weakness in the lineup is at catcher.

The Red Sox can also mix and match with their left handed hitters, with Jed Lowrie and Mike Cameron on the bench. Saltalamacchia has never caught more than 83 games in a major league season. Plus, he has had problems throwing the ball around the bases and to the pitcher. JD Drew did not have a great year in 2010 , but he will probably be batting 7th in the lineup. Watch out for Jed Lowrie to make a push to be the starting SS.

I don't think there is much to say about Youkilis and Pedroia. They are perennial MVP candidates. Ellsbury is looking to bounce back from a rib injury that limited him to 18 in 2010. He's still one of the fastest players in the game so expect him to steal upwards of 50 bags. David Ortiz may have lost a lot of his bat speed, but he is still a dangerous in Fenway. You can now bust him inside with a fastball, and he does not handle lefties well any more. 

Defensively, the team will be much improved with the addition of Crawford. Drew is one of the better defensive RF in the game, and the speed of Crawford and Ellsbury is phenomenal. I would say they have the best defensive outfield in baseball. (It will be interesting to see where Crawford positions himself in front of the Green Monster.)

The infield defense may have lost some range with the subtraction of Adrian Beltre. Youkilis is better at 1B than 3B, but Adrian Gonzalez is considered one of the better 1B in baseball. (His UZR was below average last year.) Scutaro is an average SS, but Pedroia is in the top 5 of defensive 2B in baseball. Saltalamacchia leaves a lot to be desired at C, and may be a significant weakness in 2011. 

BENCH

IF- Jed Lowrie (S)

C- Jason Varitek (S)

OF- Mike Cameron (R)

OF- Darnell McDonald (R) or Ryan Kalish (L) 

ROTATION 

LH- Jon Lester 

RH- Josh Beckett 

RH- Clay Buchholz 

RH- John Lackey 

RH- Daisuke Matsuzaka 

The rotation will remain a strength for the Red Sox. Lester has put up three exceptional seasons in a row, and has averaged more than a strike out per inning over the last two seasons. Buchholz finally had the breakout season that many had predicting, he was a little lucky with the amount of balls put in play that were turned into outs. (.261 BABIP) He needs to cut down on his amount of walks and work on his strikeout rate in order to produce another good season.

Lackey disappointed last year due to the poor recipe of increased BB's and decreased strikeouts. If Lackey can get those numbers back to his career averages, he should perform well.

The key to the rotation is Josh Beckett. Beckett's walks and home runs per nine innings have increased over the last two years, and his fastball velocity decreased from 94.3 MPH to 93.5 MPH. It's hard to tell whether Beckett' is just getting old, or he just had a poor 2010, but I expect him to rebound somewhat strongly. He relied heavily on his cutter last season, and it did not serve him well.

Dice-K isn't a bad number five starter. He walks too many hitters, but will keep the team competitive through his five to six innings. 

BULLPEN 

RH- Jonathon Papelbon (Closer)

RH- Daniel Bard

RH- Bobby Jenks

RH- Dan Wheeler

LH- Dennys Reyes

RH- Tim Wakefiled

RH- Matt Albers 

The bullpen was a real weak spot for the Red Sox last year. Papelbon had his worst season at closer, but I think that was an aberration. Expect him to have a bounce back season with his impending free-agency. The bullpen has real depth with closer in waiting Daniel Bard and former White Sox closer Bobby Jenks.

Former Rays reliever Dan Wheeler is a good option to get key right-handed hitters out. Okajima had his worst year since coming from Japan. I think that the league, and especially the AL East, has caught on to him. I wouldn't be surprised if non-roster invitee Dennys Reyes will join Okajima as another lefty in the pen. 

NOTABLE NON ROSTER INVITEES 

LHP- Dennys Reyes

RHP- Jason Bergmann

LHP- Rich Hill 

BREAKOUT PLAYER- Jed Lowrie 

I know Jed Lowrie has been around a bit, but I expect Jed Lowrie to take over for Marco Scutaro at some point this year. He was absolutely raking the ball at the end of last year, and had a .381 on base percentage plus 9 HR in only 191 ABs. I expect him to build on those numbers this year.  

PROSPECT TO WATCH - SS Jose Iglesias 

Fangraphs has Iglesias ranked as the Red Sox top prospect after his first pro season. He is known to have an outstanding glove, but needs to work on his approach at the plate. Iglesias won't impact the team this year, but may be mentioned in various trade rumors during the season. 

PROJECTED FINISH: 1st in AL East 

The Red Sox are the favorite to win the World Series, and baring any major injuries, I fully expect them to win the AL East. It will be a close finish with the Yankees, but the Red Sox are the best team in the American League.  

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