The New York Yankees might be spending $324 million over nine years for Gerrit Cole, but that doesn’t automatically make him the ace. Of course, that money suggests he should be performing like one, and he has stepped up his game tremendously after a tough start to the 2022 season, but there’s another starter making waves in the Bronx.
27-year-old pitcher with Cuban origins, Nestor Cortes, has become the next best thing for the Yankees, posting a 1.41 ERA over 32 innings to start the year. Over six games, Cortes hosts 11.81 strikeouts per nine, 0.56 home runs per nine, 88.7% left on base rate, and 36.6% ground ball rate.
Whatever Cortes is doing, teams have been completely lost trying to figure out his game. In fact, against the Texas Rangers on Monday afternoon, Cortes threw a no-hitter entering the 8th inning, striking out 11 batters over 103 pitches.
The Yankees are seeing the best of their young starter:
After starting his career in Baltimore back in 2018, Cortes endured a rocky road trying to find an established home. He joined the Yankees in 2019, recording a 5.67 ERA over 66.2 innings in a relief role. However, after a short stint with the Seattle Mariners, Cortes made his way back to New York, where he earned a 2.90 ERA last year over 93 innings, pitching in 22 games.
Now, Cortes is looking like a bonafide ace with his new approach. Looking at his pitch metrics, Cortes doesn’t display vast differences in his usage compared to 2021, despite an increase in his slider. He’s throwing his slider at 40.3% this year, up 17%. His fastball sits at 42%, curveball at 13.7%, and change-up at 4.0%. However, he’s mixed in a cutter recently, a pitch that tantalized Texas on Monday.
What makes Cortes super unique is his arm slot and wind-up. He’s always changing his fundamentals to keep batters off balance. They don’t know if it’s going to be a quick release or a long-drawn-out pitch with break. Every now and then, Cortes will throw a blazing fastball that catches hitters staring into the abyss.
His approach is vastly different compared to Gerrit Cole, who relies heavily on his fastball and consistent technique. This year, Cole has also incorporated a cutter into his repertoire of pitches but continues to lean heavily on his four-seam fastball at 49%. Cole has far more velocity than Cortes, but that doesn’t make him more effective necessarily.
The incredible turnaround that Nestor has curated the past two years has been a godsend for the Yankees. Without him, they would have a major hole in the starting rotation. At this point, he’s definitely the “People’s Ace,” but he’s pushing hard to have an even better season than the $324 million man.