NESTOR CORTES
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Nickname:   N/A Position:   LHP
Home: N/A Team:   YANKEES
Height: 5' 11" Bats:   R
Weight: 210 Throws:   L
DOB: 12/10/1994 Agent: N/A
Uniform #: 65  
Birth City: Hialeah, FL
Draft: Yankees #36 - 2013 - Out of high school (FL)
YR LEA TEAM SAL(K) G IP H SO BB GS CG SHO SV W L OBA ERA
2013 GCL GCL YANKEES   10 18.1 22 20 5 3 0 0 1 0 1   4.42
2014 GCL GCL YANKEES 2   11 31.2 35 38 5 2 0 0 0 1 2   2.27
2015 APP PULASKI   12 63.2 48 66 10 10 0 0 0 6 3   2.26
2016 EAS TRENTON   1 4 1 5 2 0 0 0 1 0 0   4.50
2016 SAL CHARLESTON   13 68.1 36 75 15 8 0 0 2 6 2   0.79
2016 INT SCRANTON/WILKES   1 5.2 0 4 3 1 0 0 0 1 0   0.00
2016 FSL TAMPA YANKEES   6 28 24 31 4 3 0 0 0 4 2   3.21
2017 IL SCRANTON/WILKES-BARRE   11 48.1 40 57 11 6 1 0 0 2 4   1.49
2017 EL TRENTON   18 52 35 45 20 7 0 0 0 5 0   2.60
2017 FSL TAMPA   1 4.1 6 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0   2.08
2018 IL SCRANTON/WILKES-BARRE   23 111.2 95 96 37 18 1 0 0 6 6   3.71
2018 EL TRENTON   1 3.1 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0   2.70
2018 AL ORIOLES   4 4.2 10 3 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.455 7.71
2019 IL SCRANTON/WILKES-BARRE   7 39.2 29 42 11 6 0 0 0 2 2   3.86
2019 AL YANKEES   33 66.2 75 69 28 1 0 0 0 5 1 0.281 5.67
2021 TAE SCRANTON/WILKES   5 15 8 18 1 1 0 0 1 1 1 0.16 1.20
2021 AL YANKEES   22 93 75 103 25 14 0 0 0 2 3 0.217 2.90
2022 AL YANKEES   3 12 11 7 7 3 0 0 0 1 0 0.244 4.50
2023 EL SOMERSET   2 6.1 6 9 1 2 0 0 0 0 0   1.42
2023 AL YANKEES   12 63.1 59 67 20 12 0 0 0 5 2 0.244 4.97
2024 AL YANKEES   5 29 26 28 5 5 0 0 0 1 1 0.234 3.41
Personal
  • Nestor was born and raised in Hialeah, the sixth-largest city in the state of Florida. He attended Hialeah High School, which is at least semi-well-known for winning back-to-back state titles in baseball in 2001 and 2002, and for being the alma mater of former Yankee Bucky Dent, the knuckleballing Charlie Hough, and pitcher Gio Gonzalez.

  • In 2013, he got drafted by the Yankees (see Transactions below).

  • In 2018, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook had Cortes as the 31st-best prospect in the Orioles' organization, where he was a Rule 5 Draftee.

  • Cortes was asked what non-baseball skill he has mastered.

    "I always said that if baseball didn't work out, I would love to go back to college and try out as a kicker for football, even though I've never done it."

    Favorite TV character? "SpongeBob SquarePants," Nestor said.

    What is an album that you listed to on repeat growing up? Cortes said, "In high school I listened to Drake all the time. Drake is my favorite rapper and artist. I listened to his albums on repeat. I still do now."

    Any pets? "I had plenty of dogs growing up, and I now have a boxer. I love him. His name is Tyson." But Nestor says he did not name him after the boxer. "No, no . . . just the name I went with."

  • July 2022: Cortes was selected to play for the AL at the MLB All-Star Game. Pitching to batterymate Jose Trevino and rocking an homage to Hialeah, Fla., and his Cuban heritage on his glove. Nasty Nestor featured the flair en route to striking out a pair in a scoreless sixth.

  • He was a 36th-round pick who has built himself a career in professional baseball through being reliable, durable, and throwing strikes consistently. But he’s been designated for assignment, traded, removed from a roster, and was optioned to the minor leagues seven times in one season.

    Now a star, Cortes is experiencing the strangeness of success that comes when you’re used to scrapping.

    “For Matt Blake (Yankees pitching coach) to sort of hint that I was going to be in the starting rotation was kind of surreal for me,” Cortes said. “It’s hard to know where I stand. My whole career, it’s been like, ‘Oh, he’s a fifth starter — if that.’ So to think about being chosen to be part of the Yankees’ starting rotation was incredible.”

    Months later, when manager Aaron Boone got word that Cortes had spent his offseason unsure of whether or not he would make the opening-day roster, he visited the left-hander’s locker and told him that not only would he be on the team, he expected him to be an All-Star.

    Cortes’ humility isn’t a put-upon act by a ballplayer who always felt destined for the top of the mountain. It’s not an ‘aw-shucks’ sort of shy humility, either. It’s the genuine, informed perspective of a man who has spent his career being treated as ‘good enough’ but never ‘better than the rest.’

    “I think the fear of failure is what keeps me motivated,” Cortes said. “If I pitch tomorrow and I give up seven runs, I expect I might be optioned, no matter what I’ve done this season, no matter if I was in the All-Star Game. That’s what keeps me afloat: The fear of going back to what I was is what pushes me, it drives me.”

    Cortes has some intangibles working for him, however. He’s extremely personable and likable, remarkably adaptable, and willing to take on a tough assignment and go out there and throw strikes. 

    He’s played the game since he was four years old and intends to play until he is 40, even if the final 10 years of his career are in the minor leagues. But the DFA by the Orioles — which he now sees as the best thing that could have happened to his career — did shake his confidence at age 23.

    Back in Triple A with the Yankees, he gave himself a reality check.

    “I’m like, ‘Man. There’s people out there that have it worse than me and are super happy,’” Cortes recalled. “I’m out here living a dream and I don’t want to be here anymore. There are people out there working terrible shifts from 10 pm to 7 am, unable to see their families or sleep on a normal schedule. And I’m here complaining about playing baseball.”

    Over the last offseason, Cortes decided to get a new tattoo. His left arm is his money arm, his right arm is the one he has marked. On his forearm, he has a large Cuban flag and a depiction of a highway shield with ‘305’ and ‘Hialeah’ on it, the former being the area code for his vastly Cuban-American hometown. On the top of his right wrist, he wanted to get his new nickname — Nasty Nestor — but he felt a little bit of hesitation.

    “I imagined some people would be like, ‘Look at this guy. Nasty Nestor, blah blah blah,’” Cortes recalled. “But the truth is, every Yankees fan calls me that. And 20 years down the road, I can know that I was once Nasty Nestor, even if I am never again Nasty Nestor. In 2021, this is how Yankees fans referred to me. So I got the tattoo.” (Adler-TheAthletic.com-July 24, 2022)

  • Cortes committed to play for the USA in the 2023 WBC but had to bow out due to a hamstring injury.

  • April 4, 2023: Perhaps Cortes' most distinctive feature is his mustache. In a world where the 'stache has taken a back seat to either a clean-shaven look or a full beard, Cortes proudly rocks the lip sweater like it's the 1970s. In fact, it's so much a part of his look that his new cleats are decorated to match.

  •  April 2023 Q&A:

    MLB.com: After your great start against the Twins, you said, “The big question for me from everybody is, can he continue to do it? I’m out there not allowing the noise to dictate what I am or who I can be.” When did you stop hearing the noise?

    Cortes: I thought the more repetitions I got out on the mound, it became less and less noisy. I want to say it happened in 2021, when I was coming out of the bullpen and I was having success. It wasn’t until July 4 when I made my first start that year. Some people were battling injuries, some people were battling Covid and I just received the opportunity to start. I threw 94 innings that year. It was so crazy for me because I started off in Triple-A. I worked out of the bullpen to eat up innings to potentially become a starter. Along the way, I thought that confidence that I created within myself allowed me to block out all the outside noise. 

    MLB.com: Did someone help you block out the noise?

    Cortes: All the guys with the Yankees have helped me in their own individual way. As far as going out and performing and not worrying about things, it was from past experiences I went through. Not being a good pitcher in the big leagues or not having success allowed me to remind myself that I’m out here for a purpose. I probably shouldn’t be here. I remind myself every day that I’m just happy to be here.

    MLB.com: Why do you say, "I probably shouldn’t be here?"

    Cortes: Coming through the Minor Leagues, I was throwing 87-88 miles per hour. I wasn’t very big. I didn’t have the nasty pitches, so people didn’t see me as a high-level prospect. At best, I think people thought I would be a long man or a fifth starter. That’s why I say I should have never been here. Obviously, now, the tide has turned.

    MLB.com: You also said, “The first three years in the big leagues were tough, but it’s about time that people start turning the corner, just like I have.” It sounds like you feel people think what you are doing is a fluke. Why do you say that? 

    Cortes: I read it every day on Twitter. People think I’m not for real. People think this could end soon, and it can. I’m not saying it’s going to be forever. I accepted the fact that my first three years weren’t any good and I turned a corner from that. I expect people to do the same. That’s what I meant from that. Every time I go out there, I try to pitch my best. I do what I can do. Hopefully, people start giving me more credit for it.

    MLB.com: You are having another good year. Why?

    Cortes: It’s only been three starts, but hopefully I can continue to keep that standard to myself and keep performing, and keep giving my team an opportunity to win. That’s the biggest key for me.

    MLB.com: What is your best moment in baseball so far as a Yankee?

    Cortes: I have two moments: Playing in the All-Star Game, and winning my first playoff game [against the Guardians in the American League Division Series last year]. The All-Star Game . . . that’s a game I watched from afar, and I never would have believed that I would be participating in one. As far as winning a game in the playoffs, a lot of pitchers get evaluated on what they do in the playoffs. It’s the winning pedigree you want to create. I think winning in the playoffs is really important for me … so people can count on me. The team can think they have a chance every time I’m out there on the mound.

    MLB.com: Another thing that people don’t talk about is that you played hurt in the American League Championship Series against the Astros last year. You shouldn’t have played in Game 4 because you had a groin injury.

    Cortes: My competitive side brought that to me. Maybe when Boonie [Manager Aaron Boone] came out that first time, I should have gotten out of the game before the [Jeremy Peña] home run. But I wasn’t going to give up. I thought I was good enough to maybe weather that storm and potentially pitch out of it. Obviously, things went the wrong way. After we lost, I told Boonie I was sorry. And he said, “Why?” I said, “Well, because I let my competitive side take over my emotions on the mound. I should have done what was right for the team, which is get out of that moment and have somebody that was healthy pitch and not give up the three-run homer.”

    Boonie immediately hugged me and said, “Hey, don’t worry about it. I know you are out there competing your tail off and you want to do the best for us.”

    MLB.com: Even though things have been going well, you always talk about your first three years in the big leagues. You went so far to say that you were in the gutter. Did you ever think you would ever get out of the gutter?

    Cortes: No. Never. So I was a Rule 5 Draft pick to the Orioles and I made my debut in 2018. The team was going in a different direction. They were about to trade a lot of guys. They were rebuilding. I thought that was my opportunity to stick in the big leagues and make a name for myself. But when I was DFA’d from the Orioles, I went back to Triple-A and I said, “My career might be over because I just got DFA’d from one of the teams that is [rebuilding].”

    I went back to the Yankees, and these guys are hunting first place every year. I don’t know if I'll ever make it back just because of that.

    MLB.com: When I think of Nestor Cortes, perseverance is the first word that comes to mind. Why were you not discouraged?

    Cortes: I would say baseball is the only thing I know how to do. I’ve been playing since I was 4 years old. I said this many times to friends and family after they asked if I thought of quitting: I always said no because it’s the only thing I wanted to do since I was 4 years old. I don’t have a college degree. I don’t know how to do anything else. I’m not a specialist in anything else. If baseball was over for me, I would have to work a regular 9 to 5 because I don’t have anything else to fall back on. I told myself I was going to ride this out until people took the jersey off my back.

    MLB.com: What was the turning point? Name the people who said, you can still play the game and keep on truckin’. Cortes: It started with my parents. They obviously knew what I was going through. They still kept me to a standard to keep going and not quit. Also, when I went to Seattle in 2020, when I got hurt, I spoke to then-Triple A pitching coach Rob Marcello. We sat down and dove into what made me good in the Minor Leagues. There were a lot of things that stood out that I wasn’t doing in the big leagues. We dove deep into analytics that I could maybe fix quickly. My season was over because I was hurt.

    So it wasn’t until 2021 that I could try those improvements. When I signed back with the Yankees in 2021, I just fell into the best group of guys that I know about pitching. [Pitching coach] Matt Blake, everybody that is here now helped me develop and create who I am right now.

     MLB.com: What did you develop that turned your career around?

    Cortes: I worked with the strength coaches — Eric Cressey, Brett McCabe, all these guys in the weight room. We got a little stronger in different positions I wasn’t accustomed to, and I started throwing harder. That’s one of the biggest reasons for my success as of late. I’m able to miss over the plate more and not get hurt much by it. In 2018 and 2019, I wasn’t throwing as hard, and any little mistake, I would pay for it. Now that my fastball has a little more life, it’s helped me navigate the lineups better, and it has made my cutter a lot better. That has been my bread and butter.

    MLB.com: What about Nestor Cortes Sr. Did he have the same perseverance as you?

    Cortes: He is a hard worker, blue collar, ever since I can remember. He never missed a day at his work. He never said, "I’m going to call off tomorrow." So that made me realize you have to work for things to obtain stuff in life. He came over to the states [from Cuba] when he was 26 and my mom [Yuslaidy] was 19. So coming to the states at a relatively young age with no family here and a newborn, they had perseverance because they had to go out and get their own to provide for me. All the sacrifices they made for themselves and for me made me realize all the things that I’m fortunate to have, and not give up on stuff.

    MLB.com: Nestor Sr. drove a forklift, correct?

    Cortes: He drove a forklift for 26 years.

    MLB.com: Is he still doing that work?

    Cortes: No. I asked him to take some time off. He is taking care of some stuff down in Miami as far as real estate goes. He is helping me that way. I’m giving him a little something for that. He comes to New York every once in a while to watch me play. That is one of the biggest blessings for me is to have my parents come up and watch me pitch. (Bill Ladson)

  • Nov. 2023:  Nestor and his longtime love, Alondra, were married.

    TRANSACTIONS

  • June 2013: The Yankees drafted Nestor in the 36th round, out of Hialeah High School in Florida.

  • December 14, 2017: The Orioles chose Cortes out of the Yankees organization in the Rule 5 Draft.

    April 14, 2018: Cortes was returned to the Yankees.

  • Nov 25, 2019: The Yankees traded Cortes to the Mariners for international signing bonus pool money.  

  • Oct. 22, 2020: Nestor became a free agent.

  • Jan 4, 2020: The Yankees organization signed free agent Nestor.

  • Jan 14, 2023: Cortes and the Yankees avoided arbitration agreeing to a one-year deal worth $3.2 million.

  • Jan 11, 2024: Cortes and the Yankees avoided arbitration agreeing to a one-year deal for $4 million.
Pitching
  • Cortes' FASTBALL sits in the upper-80s to low-90s range (reaching 93 at its best), and he has strong command of it, varying the velo at will, while also changing arm angles for more deception. It gets on hitters in a hurry.

    His CHANGE-UP is mid-70s and gets the swing and misses. His CURVEBALL is decent in the mid 70's to low 80s.

  • 2019 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball 47.8% of the time, his Sinker 4.7%, Change 11.9%; Slider 28.8%; and Curve 6.8% of the time. Average velocity: 4-seam 89.6 mph, Slider 89 mph, Changeup 82.4, Slider 82.1, and Curve 76.6 mph.

    2020 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball 40.6% of the time, his Change 5.5%; Slider 36.4%; and Curve 17.6 of the time. Average velocity: 4-seam 88.2 mph, Changeup 81.2, Slider 82.8, and Curve 76.7 mph.

    2022 Season: Pitch Usage/Avg. Velo: Fastball 47% - 91.7 mph: Cutter 30.3% - 87 mph; Slider 18.2%; Change 4% - 83 mph.

    2023 Season Pitch Usage/Avg. Velo: Fastball 51.4% - 91.7 mph; Cutter 29.3% - 86.7 mph; Slider 15.6% - 77 mph; Change 4% - 83 mph.

  • Cortes has a largely command and control profile, but his fastball and change-up play up a bit due to the natural deception in his delivery. Cortes hides the ball well in his wind-up, which helps to alleviate the issues presented by his shorter frame. He changes both speeds and arm angle.

    Nestor misses bats and induces a lot of weak contact.

    Preventing batters from picking up the ball for an additional split second or two mitigates the extra distance between his release point and home plate when compared to the average 6’2″ or 6’3″ starting pitcher. (Domenic Lanza - Feb 2, 2017 - RiverAveBlues.com)

  • Nestor is a very gutty lefthander who attacks the zone. He willingly pitches inside.

    “This is a guy who has very good pitching instincts,” Orioles Executive VP Dan Duquette said in 2018. “He knows how to locate his pitches. He knows how to field his position and combat the running game. He has a lot of skills, some very unique skills. Look at his record of success at every step of the way.

    “The critics will say he doesn’t throw hard, and that’s true. He is not a hard thrower. But he can do a lot of other things that count in getting a hitter out.”

    Cortes pitches at 87-93 mph and also throws a changeup and curveball. He tends to change his arm angle to further confound hitters, and he generates a high rate of swinging strikes as a result.

    “He is a very versatile lefthanded pitcher,” Duquette said. “He’s got good breaking stuff, excellent control and is a very good competitor. His role model is Gio Gonzalez, and he’s from South Florida, a very competitive environment.

  • Entering the 2018 season, Cortes had a career minor league ERA of 2.08 and strikeout rate of 9.5 per nine innings.

  • 2021 Season:  He was a dominant pit bull coming out of the bullpen for the first half of the season. Then, he stepped into the starting rotation and did an admirable job. Cortes Jr seems to be tailor-made for pitching in Yankee Stadium, as his ERA at home was 2.53 compared to a respectable 3.28 on the road. 

    No one can deny that on the season, Cortes posted a 2.90 ERA in the rugged AL East, recording 103 strikeouts in 93 innings while holding opposing batters to a .216 batting average and a .273 OBP as he pounded the strike zone, throwing 65 percent of his pitches for strikes and striking out 10.0/9.  (Cary Greene - Jan. 1, 2021)

  • April 17, 2022: Cortes threw an immaculate inning, striking out three Orioles in the fourth inning with just nine pitches.

  • May 10, 2022: Cortes is the first pitcher in Yankees history with at least 40 Ks and 6 runs or fewer allowed in his first 6 games of the season.

  • May 9, 2022: His name sounds nasty. His pitches ARE nasty.

    Nestor's release points can vary from a traditional, over-the-top style delivery to a drop-down submariner. But it’s not just the different looks that Cortes gives that baffle hitters; he will also do everything in his power to throw off a hitter’s timing. Sometimes he will quick-pitch rather than use a normal leg lift in his motion, while other times he will take so long he’ll draw raucous laughs from his opponents.

    Either way, “Nasty Nestor” is proving that antics are no gimmick. In a rotation that includes veteran standouts Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon and Luis Severino, it is Cortes who leads the bunch with a 1.82 ERA. Despite having the lowest fastball velocity of all these pitchers — he averages under 91 mph, while the others average over 95 — Cortes is second among his fellow breakouts in strikeout percentage, with a healthy 32 percent. He was pushed for 7.1 innings and 103 pitches, allowing only a single hit to the final Rangers batter he faced.

    Cortes' fastball has dropped less and less season by season. He gets that "rising" effect because he throws a true four-seamer. The spin axis on the pitch is almost straight backspin: 11:30 on a clock face, where 12:00 would be the truest four-seamer. Cortes gets 94% active spin on his four-seamer, which means almost all of its 2,29 rpm spin rate contributes to the movement on the pitch.

    That's how a fastball that barely breaks 90 mph can be such an effective pitch. Add that to the cutter, slider and deception, and you get Nasty Nestor. (D Adler - MLB.com - May 14, 2022)

  • June 2, 2022: Cortes became the first pitcher in Yankees history with 65+ K and 1.50 ERA or lower through his first 10 games of the season.

  • 2023 Season: The first thing you need to know is that by some broad measures, Cortes’s 4.97 ERA was plain unlucky. His ERA- was 119, 19 percent worse than league average, but his FIP- checks in at 104, just 4 percent worse than average. His .291 BABIP was a hair below league average, but above his typical rates, and as a weak contact merchant, he might be likely to have a lower baseline BABIP than your average pitcher. Baseball Savant was even more bullish on his bad luck, giving him a 3.69 xERA, an ERA/xERA gap that was one of the largest in the league.

    That doesn’t mean it was all luck. Cortes also let up a .360 xwOBA on contact, a 43-point increase over 2022, so there’s no doubt hitters were squaring the ball up better, although it’s not much off his 2021 rate, either. Still, on the pitch level, there’s a different story, as his cutter (.363 xwOBA) and sweeper (.352 xwOBA) were clearly worse, and not by a small amount, either. If Cortes is going to get back to anything close to his former level, that’s going to need fixing. (Malachi Hayes - Oct 4, 2023)

Career Injury Report
  • Aug 15, 2020: Cortes was on the IL with a left elbow impingement.

  • July 15-23, 2021: Cortes was on the IL.

  • Aug. 25-Sept 8, 2022: The Yankees placed left-hander Nestor Cortes on the 15-day injured list with a groin strain.

  • Nov 8, 2022: Cortes is taking a diligent approach to his groin injury rehab. Almost three weeks after injuring his left groin, Cortes said he is still in recovery.

    Cortes, who suffered the injury in Game 4 of the ALCS against the Astros, started rehab in early November. He believes he is close to recovery, but there’s still bruising in the area.

    “I’m walking around great. I feel I can jog, but we are taking this very slow,” said Cortes. “Last time, we took it a little too fast. I reinjured it.” 

  • Feb 26, 2023: Cortes has resumed throwing from the mound, including against live competition on Feb. 23 in Tampa, Fla., and he estimates that he has been running at about 90 percent due to a right hammy strain. Yankees manager Aaron Boone said Cortes will likely throw one more live BP session before facing a Grapefruit League opponent.

  • June 6-Aug 5, 2023:  The Yankees placed Nestor Cortes on the injured list with a shoulder strain. 

    Cortes was experiencing “achiness” in his pitching arm between starts. The southpaw received a cortisone injection to begin the rehab process and won’t throw for at least 10 days. Cortes shared more specifics regarding the shoulder soreness that led him to go to team doctors in the first place after his last start in Seattle.

    “During the start, it wasn’t bothering me,” Cortes said following the game. “It was just the recovery in-between where it would take a little bit longer than usual to get right. It just got harder to get ‘non-sore.’ After Seattle . . . I usually don’t throw the day after I pitch, so I took that day off and then we had an off day. When I got to L.A. and threw that first day, it didn’t feel right. That second day in L.A. was when I said something, because it felt like I had just pitched. So, I wasn’t recovering on time.”

  • Aug 8, 2023: Cortes was on the IL with left rotator cuff strain.

    Aug 11, 2023: Though manager Aaron Boone said that surgery does not appear to be a consideration, Cortes will not throw for at least three weeks, making it unlikely that the 28-year-old can return before the end of the regular season.