Yankees' Nestor Cortes Is Baseball's Surprising Star

When the Yankees forked over $324 million to Gerrit Cole in the winter of 2019, they had every intention that he would be the team's most reliable arm. He's been elite, then suddenly some struggles after the banning of Spider Tack in 2021, and now he's back to being the ace the Yankees paid for.

All that investment for a player with a monster track record and the Yankees' most reliable pitcher is none other than...Nestor Cortes? You read that correctly.

Cortes is an odd watch. The 27-year-old southpaw sprung onto the scene in 2021 with outings from the bullpen to help bridge to the high-powered relief arms the Yankees are known to have. But eventually as the season went on, Yankees fans looked up and saw a minuscule ERA of 2.90 by the end of 2021. A pitcher that debuted with the in-division Orioles in 2018, made a pitstop with the Yankees '19, and then another campaign with the Mariners in 2020 where Cortes saw next to zero success -- ERA's of 7.71, 5.67 and 15.26. Well evidently Nestor Cortes found what worked for him in the offseason following the covid short-season that turned him into one of baseball's best starting pitchers.

He's no gimmick, he's the real deal. Even Brewers outfielder and former Pirates star outfielder Andrew McCutchen approves of Cortes' emergence.

"Nestor Cortes' fastball plays up," he tweeted. "Meaning his 91-94 actually feels like 97. Mix that with him messing with hitters timing, throwing from diff arm angles, and locating well, he can be very difficult to hit. He showed that today."

This tweet came after Cortes brought a no-hitter one out into the eighth inning in a 1-0 win over the Rangers.

Andrew McCutchen is right, though. What Cortes has mastered is spin, deception, and location. This is the type of pitcher our grandparents screamed at the clouds to see once more. Rather than obsessing over velocity, perfecting the art of pitching can also be effective. Check out some of Nestor Cortes' last outing that proves pitchers don't always have to light up the radar gun to have a spot in the big leagues. Kind of refreshing.

What's working

Well-located sliders, back-door cutters, change-ups to get ahead in counts, periodically altering his leg kick and a fastball big leaguers are suggesting plays harder than what the radar reads, and you get a pitcher with a 1.41 ERA.

Cortes began the eighth inning with over 100 pitches thrown Monday, and according to him, he's feeling it now.

"I feel like I got hit by a truck," Cortes said to reporters. Love it.

Nestor Cortes is seen as the game's nice guy that wants to stay in pinstripes and we believe all of it. He's currently making $727,500 and set to become a free agent in 2026. It's been a while since we could say a Cliff Lee-like pitcher was dominating the game, but we're at that point again. Will Nestor Cortes command a $100 million contract in pinstripes? We're rooting for it. The game needs this.