As the New York Yankees head into the playoffs, there is a real argument to be had about their current ace. Given the team coughed up a nine-year, $324 million deal for Gerrit Cole, he is considered their ace by financial commitment, but another player has entered the fold to potentially steal that accolade away.
The Yankees’ best starting pitcher of the season hasn’t been Cole, it’s been Nestor Cortes, a 27-year-old journeyman who started his career with the Baltimore Orioles back in 2018. He made just four appearances before eventually joining the Yankees in 2019, heading to Seattle for one year and back to the Bronx for the past two seasons.
In fact, the 2022 campaign is the first year he’s pitched over 100 innings, currently sitting at 158.1.
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The Yankees have gotten unbelievable value out of Nestor Cortes:
Making 28 starts, Cortes hosts a 2.44 ERA, 3.64 xFIP, 9.27 strikeouts per nine, a 82.8% left on-base rate, and a 33.5% ground ball rate. He has one of the best ERAs in all of baseball and hosts a career-best 0.91 home runs per nine allowed with an 8.2% HR/FB ratio.
While Gerrit Cole has been struggling to end the 2022 season on a high note, Cortes has been dominating at a level almost inconceivable. In the month of September, Cole features a 4.80 ERA, allowing 16 earned runs and nine homers across 30 innings, representing five starts.
September went a bit more efficiently for Cortes, who earned a 1.80 ERA, giving up four earned runs and no homers over 20 innings in four starts. Nestor’s worst month came back in June, when he posted a 4.15 ERA across 26 innings, still representing solid stuff aside from a few tough outings.
However, with the Yankees looking ahead to the postseason, there’s a real argument to make that Cortes should be the number one option, and Cole should slide in behind him. The Yankees probably won’t execute that strategy given the financial differences, but the numbers during the regular season suggest that. Nonetheless, Cole has plenty of experience as a playoff pitcher, which the team also factors in as a variable.
Going to 2023, though, the Yankees still have Cortes under contract until 2026. If he can continue to build on his excellent season, the Yankees might have one of the best 1-2 punches in baseball in their starting rotation.