From many of the reports that have been heard from Baltimore Orioles Spring Training in Sarasota, left-handed pitcher Nestor Cortes has looked the part of a fifth starter.
MASN Sports’ Roch Kubatko was able to snap some photos of Cortes’ change in arm angle during his bullpen on February 16. He would go for over-the-top to sidearm and also mix in a three-quarters delivery as well.
— Roch Kubatko (@masnRoch) February 16, 2018
Cortes has been highly consistent in the minor leagues, pitching to a 25-14 record, 2.08 ERA, with a WHIP of 0.996 in 324.1 innings over five seasons. The 23-year old lefty has been used as both a starter and reliever in the minors, starting 40 out of the 84 games that he has appeared in. In 2017, right-handed batters slashed .206/.254/.287 against him, while he struck out 62 batters in 247 at-bats. Left-handed batters slashed .221/.329/.294 against Cortes, while he struck out 43 batters in 136 at-bats.
Standing at 5’11, 205 lbs., Cortes isn’t the most intimidating of figures. Though Cortes doesn’t have the overpowering fastball that many other pitchers in the Orioles organization have (sitting in the upper 80’s), he has been able to change speeds on his pitches (throwing a changeup, curveball and slider) and switches the pace of his delivery. His attention to detail and deception are what make him a dangerous weapon in the rotation.
Often times, Cortes pitches to contact, allowing his defense to make plays behind him. His groundball rate was 40.7% last year in Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre in 2017, an increase from a 36.4% groundball rate at the same level in 2016. This displays that Cortes has improved on keeping his pitches lower in the zone, not allowing for home runs.
Here is video from Cortes’ work in the 2016 Arizona Fall League:
In this video, Cortes changes the speed of his pitches with consistency. Around the 1:28 mark, Cortes flashes his deceptive curveball, that makes the batter fall to the ground. For the most part, Cortes keeps his pitches low and only allows one fly ball, which went for an out.
According to Brittany Ghiroli of MLB.com, Cortes will receive his chance to start as soon as Saturday against the Minnesota Twins:
Bundy will start Os game at Philly on Saturday. Cortes will throw night home game.
— Brittany Ghiroli (@Britt_Ghiroli) February 18, 2018
If Cortes has a strong showing as the only potential left-handed starter, one should expect him to be part of the Orioles rotation going forward.
(Photo Credit: Nestor Cortes’ Twitter)