Projecting the Yankees starting pitching rotation in the playoffs

nestor cortes, yankees
Sep 8, 2022; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Nestor Cortes (65) throws the ball to first base for an out during the fourth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees swept the Boston Red Sox in a two-game series this week prior to heading to Milwaukee. The Bombers have won 8 of their last 10 games, finally showing the offensive prowess expected of them.

However, their starting pitching has also been adequate during this stretch, and with reinforcements on the way, notably Luis Severino, they have an interesting decision to make for the post-season rotation.

Projected Yankees’ starting pitching rotation in the playoffs:

1.) Gerrit Cole

The Yankees aren’t paying Gerrit Cole $36 million per season to not feature as the team’s ace in the playoffs. Cole has had a few tumultuous outings recently but has otherwise been solid. He struck out 24 batters in his last 12.2 innings, representing both of his starts in September.

Against the Red Sox on Tuesday, he gave up four earned runs over 6.0 innings, all of which came from home runs.

However, Cole still hosts a 3.30 ERA, 2.77 xFIP, and 11.57 strikeouts per nine this year over a 177.1 inning sample size. His velocity remains lethal, with a 97.8 mph fastball on average. There’s no question he rounds out the team’s rotation as the top option, but he needs to be more consistent and give up fewer homers.

2.) Nestor Cortes

The Yankees didn’t trade from Frankie Montas to sit on the bench during the playoffs, but Nestor Cortes has rightfully earned his way to being the No. 2 option behind Cole.

Cortes recently returned from a groin injury, pitching on September 8 and 14. He’s given up three earned runs in his last 9.0 innings, striking out nine batters. Against Boston on Wednesday, he was lights out, giving up one run over 5.0 innings. In August, he made only four appearances but featured a 3.33 ERA count, giving up nine runs over 24.1 innings.

On the season, Cortes hosts a 2.70 ERA, 3.71 xFIP, and 9.13 strikeouts per nine. This is the first time in his career he’s breached over 100 innings, and he’s already reached 140 after posting a career-high of 93 in 2021. His 81.7% left on-base rate is fantastic, and he’s giving up just 1.03 homers per nine, another great metric. His velocity is up nearly an entire mile per hour, and has gotten even more creative with his arm angles.

After earning an All-Star appearance, Cortes should have the No. 2 spot locked up.

3.) Frankie Montas

Frankie Montas has had an interesting start to his tenure with the Yankees. In August, he featured a 7.01 ERA as he adjusted to the change in strategy.

So far in September, he’s been solid, giving up four earned runs over 10.2 innings, posting a 3.38 ERA. Given his struggles, the Yankees may feel as though he should man the third spot, but there’s a legitimate argument to make that Luis Severino might be a better fit.

Nonetheless, I believe that Severino will feature as a team’s primary bullpen arm, an option who can carry them several innings if need be.

Sevy is coming off a lengthy spell on the injured list, but he’s feeling 100%, and if he showcases dominance over the next few weeks, manager Aaron Boone might be more inclined to utilize him in the rotation. For now, Montas has the No. 3 spot locked up.