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Behind Enemy Lines: Talking Yankees with Pinstripe Alley

We asked Jake Devin what makes the Evil Empire exciting this year.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at New York Yankees Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Who would have thought going into a series against the much-feared AL East juggernaut Yankees, that the Tigers would actually have the better record? Sure, small sample size, and the Tigers had the benefit of a four-game series over the Yankees three-games against the Orioles, but still... let’s enjoy this while we can.

That said, the Yankees won’t go gentle into a Tigers series, especially on home turf. After dropping two-of-three to the O’s — a team widely predicted to be the worst in baseball in 2019 — the Yankees will have something to prove.

We took some time to chat with Jake Devin, a writer and editor for the SB Nation Yankee’s site Pinstripe Alley, about what makes the Yankees exciting this year, and which players we might not be paying enough attention to.

BYB: What would you say is the biggest thing the Yankees need to focus on early this year for success?

JD: This is simplistic to say, but they just have to take advantage of a light early-season schedule and not play down to the competition. This is not meant as disrespect to the likes of Detroit, Baltimore, and Kansas City! The Yankees just happen to start off the season playing teams that are currently at a different point in the cycle of success. As they saw in struggling with the Orioles last series, these games against rebuilding teams aren’t gimmies, and they need to stay focused and start strong.

There’s a lot of exciting young talent on the Yankees roster. We all know Judge and Stanton, but who would you say is a player that doesn’t get enough credit?

It might seem crazy to say Gleyber Torres, since he entered last season as a top-10 global prospect and finished in the top-three of Rookie of the Year voting, but I’m not sure even Yankees fans have truly appreciated how strong he’s started. He hit 24 homers in 123 games despite never hitting more than 11 in a season in the minors, and was hitting .294/.350/.555 before going down with injury last year. He’s a stud.

Not to wish injury on anyone, but would you say there’s a position where the Yankees don’t have enough depth if an injury did occur?

Well, since they’ve already suffered injury there, starting pitching! With Luis Severino and CC Sabathia hurt, they’re down to relying on Domingo German and Luis Cessa, and Gio Gonzalez waiting as insurance. Any more injuries and the depth falls off even further. They can ill-afford any one of Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, and J.A. Happ getting hurt in the coming weeks.

Who was the most exciting offseason acquisition in your opinion?

I’d say Paxton pretty easily. We’ve covered at our site thoroughly his bonafides as an ace, though of course, it comes down to staying on the field for him. But the shot at a 180+ inning season from Paxton is positively tantalizing, and he flashed his elite stuff in breezing through the Orioles lineup this weekend.

What Tigers player do you think poses the biggest risk to the Yankees in this series?

From a distance, it might still be Miguel Cabrera. I know he’s had a couple of miserable seasons, but his Statcast figures indicate he still puts a charge into the ball consistently. I’ll forever be wary of his bat when he’s healthy.

That being said, after his start last week, maybe I should be saying Jordan Zimmermann! He’s going Tuesday, and if he looks anything like he did in his opening start, he’ll be up to the task of facing this Yankees lineup.

The AL East is going to be a tough division to win this year, how many games do you think the Yankess will win, and where do you think they’ll finish in the standings?

I thought they looked like clear favorites after the winter, but then Severino, Sabathia, Dellin Betances, and Aaron Hicks all ran into injury trouble during spring. That was enough to put them into a near dead-heat with Boston for me, though I still like New York’s roster just slightly better on the whole. Forced to make a prediction, I say 97 wins and the AL East title over the Red Sox by one game.

What’s your favorite Yankees storyline that fans should keep an eye on this year?

The Yankees publicly intimated that they were a “fully-operational death star” this offseason. While that never materialized into a vintage Yankees spending spree, I can’t wait to see if they’ll be that death star on the field this year, specifically when it comes to their lineup. A heart of the order that includes Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Gary Sanchez should absolutely terrorize opposing pitchers, to an extent that they didn’t quite last season. Will that trio, plus the likes of Luke Voit, Miguel Andujar, and Torres, strike fear in the hearts of all challenge them? Or will Stanton’s slight decline continue from last season, will Sanchez fail to bounce back, and will the young kids suffer through a sophomore slump? There are no guarantees in either direction, but the pure monumental upside of the lineup has me thrilled.

We want to thank Jake for taking the time to chat with us and giving us a little more insight into the newest version of the Yankees. You can find more of Jake’s work at Pinstripe Alley, or follow him on Twitter @JakePDevin.