In 2021, Nestor Cortes Jr. emerged for the Yankees in a time where they desperately needed pitching help. Injuries to Corey Kluber, Luis Severino, and Jameson Taillon necessitated some experimentation from the Yankees. Cortes was brought up as a long relief guy who was just supposed to eat innings. He proved to be effective and soon found his way into the rotation as a starter-opener hybrid where he would pitch three or four innings and give it over to the bullpen. However, Cortes soon garnered attention as a fun, gimmicky pitcher who would mess with hitters by mixing up his timing with his delivery, as well as his arm slot coming to home plate. Viral videos of him doing this to Shohei Ohtani and Brandon Nimmo while the two batters laughed added to the attention he was getting. However, Cortes was effective in every role the Yankees put him in last year, with a 2.90 ERA in 93 innings pitched. His future as a Yankees starter, however, was anything but certain going into 2022.
Cortes came into the 2022 season as the fifth starter, but with plenty of options available either coming back from injury, or in the minors, not many people saw him as a permanent option. All Cortes did with his role up in the air was start the season off with two straight games where he did not allow a run in 9.1 innings total. On May 9, he took a no-hitter into the 8th inning. Cortes has been the best starter in one of the best rotations in MLB in 2022. Only one Yankees starter has an ERA above three so far this season, but Cortes is the only one below two. With an ERA of 1.41 Cortes is leading the American League in that category, and is just second behind the Marlins’ Pablo Lopez in all of MLB. He has 11.8 K/9 and only allows 5.6 hits per nine innings. There isn’t a pitching metric that exists that Cortes isn’t dominating at the moment. He is still changing his timing sometimes, but isn’t relying on that. He chooses spots very well to do that. He used it to get a strikeout of José Ramírez in a big spot against the Guardians. He has become a more complete pitcher.
The tale for the season has been Cortes’ cutter. He’s using that pitch 41% of the time, tied with the fastball. He is able to backdoor righties with it, bust righties inside with it, frontdoor lefties, and get lefties to chase it. He adds a slider that he throws 13% of the time that he can do the exact same thing with. Cortes’ best quality is his unpredictability. He may throw sidearm or overhand, he may throw a pitch with movement or without. He is a very hard pitcher to get any sort of game plan against. “Nasty Nestor” has quickly become beloved by Yankees fans in his time with the team. However, it’s time that as baseball fans, we see him as a legitimate pitcher more than just a gimmicky fringe-starter. Nestor Cortes Jr. is the real deal.
One thought on “Is Nestor Cortes Jr the Real Deal?”
Well done. Hopefully Nasty Nestor continues this hot streak all season. Funny thing is, he doesn’t “check all the boxes” that scouts look for. Body type? Not quite there. Fastball velocity? Not quite there. This leads to the question why are scouts so hung up on the 95+ fastball? EVERY major league hitter can hit that pitch if they know it’s coming. The key to pitching is keeping hitters uncomfortable and Cortes does it better than anybody.