His name is beginning to be mentioned, perhaps because he is a lefty and has a sinking fastball that often sits at 93 mph.
Nestor Cortes, who put together a 6-2, 2.28 mark in 12 appearances (10 starts) for the Appalachian League Pulaski Yankees, who compete at the Rookie level, is yet another young starter who bears watching.
Having turned 21 Dec. 10, Cortes, who was a 36th-round selection in the 2013 draft, and was 1-3, both starting and relieving in 2013 and 2014 in the Gulf Coast League, really got on track at Pulaski last season.
“Nestor came a long way,” said 2015 Pulaski manager Tony Franklin. “He really has three good pitches, a fastball that sinks, a change and a curve. We really liked what we saw out of him last summer.
“I really think he has a chance to be a solid starting pitcher,” added Franklin, who likely will return to Pulaski in 2016. “We’ll see how he does onward in the system.”
Being 21, it’s a good bet the Yankees will give Cortes, a native of Hialeah, Fla., in the Miami area who was drafted out of high school, a shot at Class-A Charleston and the South Atlantic League. If that ends up being a bit much, he could see some time at Short-Season Staten Island, but the RiverDogs are the best bet.
Cortes got stronger as the Pulaski season went on last summer, allowing just 14 earned runs in his last 10 appearances with a strikeout/walk ratio of 50-11. He was one of many players who improved under Franklin and his staff, as the Yankees made a tactical decision to place more experienced managers and coaches like Franklin and pitching coach Justin Pope, at the lower levels.
“We really enjoyed helping the young kids get better and send them on their way,” said Franklin.
The Yankees’ plans produced success and came to fruition as the Pulaski club rolled to an Appalachian League-best 45-23 mark, division title and playoff berth under Franklin. Cortes was a key performer for the Yankees down the stretch as he recorded several quality starts.
“He led our staff, pitching out of a lot of tough spots,” said Franklin.
Cortes allowed just seven homers in 63.2 innings and registered an excellent WHIP of 0.89. He formed an excellent lefty-righty tandem with Adonis Rosa, another 21-year-old from Santiago, D,R., who compiled a 7-2, 3,93 mark and showed excellent control, walking just nine in 11 starts and 55 innings.
As a result, mixed with offensive contribution with the likes of first baseman Kane Sweeney, who hit .320 (49-for-153) and outfielder Carlos Vidal, who checked in with a .303 (74-for-244). Third baseman Allen Valerio chopped in with 12 homers and 41 RBIs.
“We had a lot of talent in Pulaski, a lot of good players who have a lot of potential,” said first baseman Billy Fleming, who hammered Appalachian League pitching for a .444 average (24-for-54) in 15 Pulaski games before moving on to full-season levels and ending up at Double-A Trenton, where he will begin 2016.
“Cortes and the other guys can pitch,” added Fleming.
Moving from the Appalachian League to full-season ball is a major step, as moving from Single-A to Double-A, and there are hurdles to overcome, but Cortes and others appear well on their way.