It wouldn’t be far off to say that, before the 2022 MLB season embarked, the New York Yankees had plenty of questions with their pitching rotation. From ace Gerrit Cole looking to rebound from a poor end to the 2021 season to No. 2 starter Luis Severino coming off injury, there was plenty to talk about.
But one of the most talked about players is the team’s No.5 starter: the Cuban-American pitcher selected in the 36th round of the 2013 MLB Draft, Nestor Cortés, Jr.
That’s why it’s even more confusing why he’s not higher in the order behind Cole, Severino, or, at the very least, Jordan Montgomery. A 1-2-3 order of Cole, Severino, and Cortés sounds electric for a team that is looking to get consistently great pitching for the entire season. With how the MLB veteran is trending higher and higher by the start, it would only be right to capitalize on that. By inserting Cortés higher in the rotation, manager Aaron Boone would be putting an emphasis on consistency.
It simply does not make much sense to insert Cortés at the No. 5 slot. No. 4 starter Jameson Taillon’s numbers haven’t been spectacular and frankly it doesn’t make sense to have him as the No. 4 starter. Other than his recent start against Cleveland, Taillon has been giving up a consistent two runs. Even in his best start of the season against Cleveland, he still gave up seven hits in five innings. It’s not better than Cortés, who has given up just two runs this entire season and shown that he’s not just someone that you would be lucky to get a win out of.
The opportunity to pitch at the No. 3 slot is essentially neck-and-neck. While Montgomery pitched poorly in his first start of the season against Boston, he’s been solid since then with great starts against Detroit and Baltimore. What makes Cortés stand out from Montgomery are those strikeout numbers, which have generated plenty of buzz this season.
Could New York let the battle between Montgomery and Cortés for the No. 3 spot play out until one truly shows that they are the better pitcher? Absolutely. Montgomery is a pitcher whose statistics are much better than his record shows. He can definitely develop his pitching throughout the season and could prove to be better, especially when both starters have just three starts under their belt.
Now in late April, Cortés has looked excellent with three starts under his belt. Whether it was his immaculate inning against Baltimore or a diving play to get Cleveland Indians outfielder Steven Kwan out at first base, he’s shown a toughness that Yankees fans love.
After a solid 2021 season saw Cortés rise to become a fan-favorite with plenty of productive outings, there were definitely questions about whether “Nasty Nestor” could repeat his success in 2022. Remember, this was the same player who continued to bounce around the league with teams like the Baltimore Orioles and Seattle Mariners, but still managed to find his way back to the Bronx and in 2022, he was looking to make sure he stayed put.
More importantly, Cortés continues to perform. His 25 strikeouts this season are so good that he’s tied for seventh in the entire league. That, along with a solid 15 innings of pitching in 2022, is absolutely huge for the team. It has not only given the offense less pressure during games, but has also pushed plenty of momentum toward the bullpen to close out wins.
Cortés, however, needs to be higher up in the rotation. At the bare minimum, his production thus far is higher than Taillon’s, and arguably Montgomery’s too. It could be beneficial for Boone to test out a new rotation where Cortés starts as the No. 3 or No. 4 starter. If he continues to do well as he has so far in the season, it could be a permanent transition.