There has been plenty of bad blood between the Tigers and Yankees in the past, from Rookie of the Year voting to bench-clearing brawls. But the two teams are not generally considered to be rivals.
Still, there’s always a good chance of sparks flying when these two clubs meet up, and before things get interesting this week, we wanted to chat with the experts about what to expect from the Yankees this season. We chatted with Andrew Mearns, the managing editor of our Yankees sister site Pinstripe Alley about offseason aquisitions and the one who got away.
BYB: We’re now three series into the new season, what are your initial thoughts on how the Yankees are looking?
PA: They basically look exactly the same as last year, with pitching defying doubters and an offense that is completely failing to live up to any reasonable expectations. The lineup has scored just 30 runs over the first 10 games and is coming off a series in which they scored in just 3 of the 29 innings against the not-to-vaunted Orioles pitching staff. There are a few players who are hitting the ball hard, but Joey Gallo’s producing too much topspin, Gleyber Torres looks as lost as ever, and the new starting shortstop/catcher combination of Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Kyle Higashioka looks as punchless as advertised. If this pitching staff wasn’t so excellent early on, they would not be .500 by any stretch.
BYB: Which player has surprised you most, either for good or bad?
PA: My first answer was very pessimistic, so let’s be positive! Nestor Cortes just keeps finding ways to dominate. He won’t pitch in this series against Detroit, but he now has 17 strikeouts in just 9.1 innings and has yet to allow a run. Two starts does not a season make, but it’s a perfect start for him to prove that his 2021 wasn’t a fluke. Nestor rules.
BYB: Possibly on the same note, but which of the Yankees’ offseason pickups is shaping up to be the best, and who do you perhaps wish they’d gotten that they didn’t?
PA: Well so far, no one from the trade that sent Gary Sánchez and Gio Urshela to Minnesota has really impressed, so we’ll go with the other notable move, which was bringing Anthony Rizzo back to man first base. I’m still not convinced that it was the right move as opposed to pursuing a Matt Olson or Freddie Freeman, but he has not been the reason for the struggles thus far and he leads the team with a trio of homers while also saving a bunch of shaky throws from different parts of the infield.
As for the second part of that question? Well ...
BYB: It became pretty evident with the late offseason chatter that the Yankees were never really in on the Carlos Correa market, do you think that was smart on their part or do you think they should have tried to get him?
PA: Yes, the Yankees absolutely should have been in on Carlos Correa and they should be mortified with how the sweepstakes ended up playing out. They needed a quality bat to boost an offense that was lackluster in 2021, and they even named shortstop as a top offseason priority. Yet they settled for Kiner-Falefa over not only Correa but also Seager, Báez, Story — you name a player, the Yankees passed on him, all for a guy who in the best case is a decent stopgap while the shortstop prospects develop. The Dodgers have never had a problem with signing a top player even though they had prospects; Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe should not have blocked the Yankees from signing Correa. Young players can always break through at other positions, but the Yankees seem to have forgotten that.
BYB: Are there any hot prospects waiting in Triple-A that you’re most excited to see this year?
PA: Volpe’s one of the best prospects in baseball, but he’s more likely to make an impact in 2023 since the past week and a half is his first time facing pitching above the High-A level. Peraza is not quite as ballyhooed but is still a Top-100 prospect and since he’s at Triple-A, could end up breaking through at some point, particularly if Kiner-Falefa continues to underwhelm.
BYB: If you had to place a bet right now, which Yankees will be repping the team in the All-Star Game in July?
PA: Aaron Judge will be there, which is no surprise, and I imagine that Gerrit Cole shakes off his first two starts and pitches well enough to make the team since he’s Gerrit Cole. I’m going to be optimistic and say that DJ LeMahieu returns to All-Star form too after an off-year in 2021. He looks healthy and productive, which he didn’t last year.
BYB: The AL East is poised to be a brutal fight to the finish this year, where do you see the Yankees ending the season?
PA: I personally picked the Yankees to win the division since I’m an optimist, but my staff went with the Blue Jays. I think that’s the more realistic pick honestly. That offense is just something else, and even with not-as-certain pitching, it’s good enough that I believe in Toronto more than the Rays’ devil magic continuing to work for a 3rd straight year atop the AL East. I refuse to accept that the Red Sox could finish better than either Tampa or Toronto.
Many thanks to Andrew for chatting with us. If you’d like to read more of his work, check him out at Pinstripe Alley.