On a Yankees roster stacked with marquee names on one of the highest payrolls in baseball, a journeyman pitcher making just over league minimum is stealing the spotlight in the Bronx.
On Monday, Nestor Cortes flirted with a no-hitter against the Rangers in the latest superb outing for the 27-year-old lefthander. Cortes (1-1) lowered his ERA to 1.41 (3rd AL) and his WHIP to 0.97 (T7), while upping his strikeout total to 42 (4th) in six starts.
Cortes’ success is all the more impressive considering the journey he took to reach the Yankees’ starting rotation — plus the fact he is one of MLB’s softest-throwing hurlers.
- He was the Yankees’ 36th-round pick (1,094th overall) in the 2013 draft.
- Cortes spent parts of eight seasons in the minors and is in his third stint with the Yanks after playing with the Orioles and Mariners.
- He’s the first Yankees pitcher to record 40 strikeouts and allow six or fewer runs in his six starts in a season.
- His fastball averages 90.4 mph (158th in MLB), his slider 76.2 mph (144th).
In March, “Nasty Nestor” signed a one-year, $727,500 deal accounting for 0.30 percent of the team’s $246 million payroll (3rd MLB).
Since then, he has gone from being the AL-leading Yanks’ secret weapon to entering the Cy Young Award conversation, even if he still has long odds (+3000, T11).
There’s plenty of time for that to change as Cortes’ legend continues to grow.