Name: Nestor Cortes
DOB: December 10, 1994
Repertoire. Fastball, Changeup, Curveball, Slider.
Fastball. Cortes throws mostly big league average fastballs velocity-wise, sitting anywhere from 87-92 mph with his fastball. However, what he lacks in pure speed he more than makes up with a ton of deception, late-life explosion, and amazing pinpoint big league command so while the radar gun readings indicate the fastball is just average it does play at a much, much higher level when watching the swings opposing batters take. They simply can't barrel him up and when he misses the zone, as infrequently as he does, he misses low too and that aids in his ability to prevent hard-hit balls. Standing just 5-foot-11 and now four years into his career, there is little hope the velocity will improve much for the now 22-year old but the fastball does play extremely well where it stands right now.
Other Pitches. As is the case with most pitch-ability guys, it is tough to face Cortes because he has three solid big league secondary offerings that he can throw for strikes at any time, headlined by his above average changeup. Like his fastball, Cortes can paint all four quadrants of the strike zone with his changeup, a pitch that shows really good fade and depth too. It still serves as his primary strikeout pitch. His breaking ball combination -- a slower curveball in the mid-to-high 70s and a harder slider in the low-80s -- is big league above average too. In fact, both pitches have come a long way in a rather short period of time and they, like his changeup, still show some room for growth too. The fact that he can throw both pitches for strikes at will makes both high floor offerings.
Pitching. There simply isn't a major weakness in Cortes' game outside of merely average big league velocity with his fastball. He throws four average or big league pitches not only for strikes but with command, all with significant movement, and he has a high level of pitching intelligence. He knows how to read the swings of opposing batters, he sets up batters in chess-like fashion by mixing up speeds, locations, and pitches, and he is one of the better athletes around too so he fields his position exceptionally well and he excels at holding runners. Throw in a true hatred for giving up walks, he forces batters to swing at his pitches and rarely ever beats himself on the mound. Throw in a quick temp, a second to none competitive drive, and impeccable makeup, the term 'moxie' isn't bold enough to describe his game.
Projection. Cortes is a high floor, lower ceiling kind of guy. If Cortes was bigger, stronger, and could throw harder, he would have the projection of a front-half big league starting pitcher someday and he would be one of the best pitching prospects in the game overall. Given his physical limitations, however, his long-term projection is better suited in the back-half, somewhere in between a number three and a number five. However, given his plus-plus command of four big league average pitches or better, plus-plus makeup, and unrivaled competitive spirit, and the fact he doesn't beat himself on the mound, he does have one of the better likelihoods of reaching his ceiling as an eventual big league pitcher. The solid breaking ball combination and sneaky-quick fastball gives him a floor of a left-handed bullpen specialist but the stellar changeup and in-game stamina would be wasted in that role. He gives the Yankees some viable long-term options but seems best suited for the starting rotation where he could pitch like an 'ace' on any given day.
ETA. 2018. We mentioned a year ago that because Cortes didn't have any weaknesses that he could move very quickly and he even saw some Double-A and Triple-A action last year. He seems most likely poised to open up in the Double-A Trenton rotation this coming season but should see ample Triple-A action later in the year. A late-season big league call-up is not out of the question if an emergency situation arises because he is pretty much big league ready right now.