It’s not a bold take to say that Nestor Cortes is a candidate to start the MLB All-Star Game for the American League come July 19th. He’s easily one of the more exciting pitchers to watch in the game right now, and is surely one of the favorites to toe the slab at Dodger Stadium. There are other options, but let’s run through the reasons why the Yankees’ surprise ace is most deserving of that spot.
Nasty Nestor has taken the league by storm. He owns the fourth-highest fWAR in the American League among starters with a 1.9 and has the second-lowest ERA at 1.50, only trailing fellow surprise Martín Pérez of the Texas Rangers, who sports a 1.42 ERA this season. At this point, fans know that Cortes isn’t one who will blow away opponents with a power. Relying mainly on his cutter and four-seam fastball, Cortes uses late life, deceptive arm angles, and varied deliveries to keep hitters constantly guessing and off balance. With a cutter that averages 86.2 mph and a fastball at 90.9 mph, he makes it all look faster with his trickery on the mound.
Nestor Cortes, Back-to-Back 91mph Fastballs...with different arm angles. Artist. pic.twitter.com/hWBVopR2pT— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 9, 2022
Cortes has also been mowing down some of the top offenses in baseball this year. In fact, he’s allowed 3 runs or fewer in 19 consecutive starts, which is the second-longest streak in team history, only behind Deadball Era emery ball specialist Russ Ford, who did it 20 times.
Cortes has battled against the Toronto Blue Jays twice, allowing a combined two runs in 8.1 total innings. A little over a week ago, he threw against the Tampa Bay Rays, where he went eight strong frames and allowed only one run on four hits. Just yesterday, he flummoxed the Los Angeles Angels over seven shutout innings. To put it into perspective, the Blue Jays are among the top five in the AL in home runs, batting average, slugging percentage, and OPS. The Rays are top 10 in RBI and hits, and the Angels are second in hits, batting average, home runs. These aren’t easy opponents to conquer, but Cortes had minimal problems.
Comparing him to other candidates, Cortes’ 10.20 K/9 is the fifth-best in the AL—better than Tarik Skubal (9.36) and Justin Verlander (8.49). Cortes is fourth in the American League in hard-hit percentage (23.3%) with only Alek Manoah, Jordan Montgomery, and Pérez ahead of him. Just take a look at his Baseball Savant. He’s among the best in a ton of categories.
Nestor Cortes is the also the first player in New York Yankees history to own a 1.50 ERA or lower through his first 10 starts of the season while also posting 65 or more strikeouts. He’s doing things that have never been done before, and he doesn’t need a blazing fastball for success.
We all continue to watch Cortes and his awesome mustache amaze us every five days. He’s brought a different approach to pitching that is surely not common in today’s league. The fact that he makes it work—and makes it work at such an elite level—is that much more fun to see. There are a few other candidates to start the All-Star Game for the American League, but as of now, it should be Cortes’ spot to lose.