American League East 2011 Season Preview

Leading up to the start of the 2011 Regular Season, Diamond Hoggers will preview each of MLB’s 30 teams . Today’s preview features the Boston Red Sox. Stay tuned as Diamond Hoggers previews every team division by division until the start of the regular season. We’re running out of time, so here is a preview of the American League East. Boston Red Sox

Why to watch: They added Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez to a roster that already had Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, Marco Scutaro/Jed Lowrie, Jacoby Elsbury, David Ortiz, and J.D. Drew. It’s a veteran lineup that will be very tough to get out on a consistent basis. Someone will always be able to hurt you.

They’ll score runs, pile up the total bases, and steal bags at a fairly consistent rate. That shouldn’t be questioned. What keeps them a 90-win team instead of a 100-win shoe-in would be their rotation. While it looks good on paper, after Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz; we’re not all that impressed.

Why we’re concerned: Cracks in the mirror were shown last year as far as Papelbon goes. Even if he returns to unhittable, look at the guys after 1 and 2 in the rotation. Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and John Lackey. Again, you could be in worse shape; but what is so unbeatable about those guys?

Don’t forget that they really still don’t have a catcher. Jarrod Saltalamacchia is running out of time to make it in this game.

Tampa Bay Rays

Why to watch: Joe Maddon is everything the game of baseball should be about. He manages on gut feeling and is a really good guy. He’s easy to root for. Evan Longoria has the best contract in baseball, and he deserves another shot at a ring. I’m just sad I’m not going to own him through more of his prime years in any of my fantasy baseball keeper leagues. Their starting pitchers; namely Jeremy Hellickson and David Price can hum the cheese. The lineup isn’t going to be quite as much of a party as it was in the past, but we think Ben Zobrist is in for a return to form and a huge year. He’ll make up some of what was lost in Crawford and Pena.

Don’t forget that this team added Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon in the offseason. Without them, they don’t have a chance. With them both healthy and playing for something, and the Rays will be putting double digit runs on the scoreboard on a lot of nights.

Why we’re concerned: Reid Brignac, Sean Rodriguez, the fact that they have no closer, and basically where will all the runs come from other than Longoria and Zobrist on a consistent basis. Manny Ramirez hasn’t been the same player in a couple of seasons. Desmond Jennings is young and raw, while B.J. Upton is a wild-card for the duration of his career.

There are just too many uncertainties in a tough division to pick this team to win consistently. They should still be a team that wins between 85-90 games which is impressive in the AL East.

New York Yankees

Why to watch: I mean, it’s the Yankees. Aside from being our fiance’s team, they’ve got it going to make a run every single year and what the Yanks do always goes down in history. They’re coming to Cincinnati this summer so we’ll get to see them play the Reds for the first time since 2003.

But seriously, the stars shine brighter when they’re wearing pinstripes. What kind of year will Derek Jeter have? Will A-Rod start his decline? Will Phil Hughes pitch well enough to make them not pay a king’s ransom for Carsten Charles Sabathia? Something has to give in New York. And it’s their first full season with “The Boss” watching over as a ghost from above.

The big addition may have only been Rafael Soriano, but we say he pays big dividends, logs saves at some point this year; and the Yankees were stacked already for all intensive purposes.

Why we’re concerned: It’s scary to think that you can have everything the Yankees had last season and still not win it all. That title win in 2009 was awfully huge. Other than that, it’s been a run of disappointment.

In terms of Yankees teams of the past, they’re about an 8.5ish type squad. They’re ‘eh’. You know what I mean Yankee fan. The prospects cupboard has run barren, and this group of Yankees are aging from Texeira to Sabathia to Jeter and Rodriguez. They’re still loaded–but is it crazy to think that they miss out on a playoff spot?

Toronto Blue Jays

Why to watch: They’re really the forgotten team in the AL East. Look for Travis Snider to finally emerge and a rebound from Adam Lind. Aaron Hill is a candidate for rebound as well. J.P. Arencibia takes over behind the plate, look for him to carve out a Pierzynski-like career. Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow are exciting as the starting pitching 1 and 2.

Why we’re concerned: Jose Bautista is coming back down to earth. Bautista entered 2010 with just 59 homers for his career. He also set personal bests with 124 RBI and 100 walks while batting .260. We’ll wager that he won’t reach any of those numbers in 2011. Jon Rauch opens the season as the closer, but we’re doubtful he finishes in that spot. Vernon Wells is now gone to the Angels, while Rajai Davis and Juan Rivera take his spot. There are flies circling those guys.

Baltimore Orioles

Why to watch: Brian Matusz is the biggest boom candidate wearing Orioles laundry. This is the year we find out if Matt Wieters is going to be a stud in the big leagues or not–and you have to think that with everyone forgetting about him he finally delivers on all of that promise. Not having the spotlight on him so bright should allow for a slow ascent to being a great big league offensive catcher. Nick Markakis and Adam Jones have to be better than what they showed us last season. Can Vlad Guerrero hit .300 wearing Oriole orange?

Why we’re concerned: The offense shuts down when Brian Roberts isn’t at the top of the order, and he’s aging. Mark Reynolds has pop but hit .198 last season. Baltimore isn’t where guys to to revive those kind of seasons. They’re the Orioles. They’re going to finish in last place again.