Projecting the Yankees’ starting rotation come the playoffs

Alexander Wilson
nestor cortes, yankees

The New York Yankees are looking ahead to the postseason as their primary objective, but August has been a tumultuous month filled with adversity and roadblocks.

Ranging from injuries to inadequate play, the Yankees are trying to scratch and claw their way out of a cold streak, losing eight of their last 10 games.

However, the starting pitching rotation has turned a corner over the past week or so, putting together consistently productive outings.

On Saturday night, Frankie Montas earned his second start wearing pinstripes, putting together a far more efficient performance than his first game with the team. Over 5.0 innings, Montas allowed five hits and two earned runs, striking out four batters and allowing two walks. He’s expected to make a significant impact during the postseason, which is primarily why the Yankees acquired him at the deadline.

With the way the rotation is performing right now, let’s take a look at what the projected unit may be during the post-season.

Projecting the Yankees’ projected starting rotation in the playoffs:

1.) Gerrit Cole

Of course, Gerrit Cole is slotted in as the number one option in the rotation. This season, he hosts a 3.38 ERA, 2.67 xFIP, 11.58 strikeouts per nine, a 79% left on base rate, and 43.8% ground ball rate over 138.1 innings. While his HR/FB ratio sits at 16.2%, an elevated number, he is arguably the best pitcher in baseball when he’s at the top of his game.

Cole has had a few tumultuous outings this year, giving up an egregious number of homers, but if he can elevate his quality during elimination rounds, he should set the Yankees up well in the first game of the series.

2.) Frankie Montas

It was nice to see Montas bounce back from a tough first start with the Yankees on Saturday. On the season, he features a 3.59 ERA over 112.2 innings. He’s earned 9.19 strikeouts per nine with a 71.5% left on base rate and 46.1% ground ball rate.

Montas relies heavily on his 4-seam fastball and split-finger fastball. With his 4-seam, he’s generating a 27.3% whiff rate and 22.3% put-away rate. His split-finger is generating a .174 batting average against with a 34% whiff rate. He does mix in a slider at 15.1%, which has earned a 39.7% whiff rate.

He easily pencils in as the number two starter in the rotation, but the Yankees still have a big question to answer in the third slot.

3.) Nestor Cortes

While Luis Severino could earn the nod over Nestor Cortes, the 27-year-old pitcher has been phenomenal this season. Posting a 2.67 ERA with 9.53 strikeouts per nine, an 83.7% left on base rate over 118 innings, Cortes has earned his way into the playoff rotation.

In fact, Nestor has completely turned things around after hitting a wall several weeks ago. To start August, Cortes has given up five earned runs over 11.1 innings, including 14 strikeouts. A few tough pitches toward the end of his most recent outing against the Seattle Mariners last Wednesday resulted in three earned runs, but he was otherwise dominant. In July, he gave up just eight runs over 27.2 innings, earning a 2.60 ERA. He’s relied less on his cutter, which has spiked his efficiency.

Considering how dominant Severino would be out of the bullpen, I think the Yankees will ultimately settle on Cortes as their third starter. There is a slight concern his innings count will catch up to him at some point, but that doesn’t seem to be a problem just yet.