Nestor Cortes was drafted by the New York Yankees in the 36th round of the 2012 First-Year-Player Draft out of Hialeah Senior High School in Hialeah, Florida. He has been compared to fellow Yankees farm hand Dan Camarena when he was original drafted as both are not power pitchers and both are left-handed.
It was a big change for Nestor coming from High School, “My biggest adjustment from high school to pro ball was to have a routine every day before, during, and after the game. Also learning how to mix my pitches with every batter and every count.”
In his first professional season in 2013, Cortes threw just 18 1/3 innings allowing 9 runs in 10 games, 3 starts for the Gulf Coast League Yankees. He struck out 20 batters while walking jut 5. He returned to the Gulf Coast League in 2014 where in 11 games, 2 starts, he earned a 2.27 ERA. Striking out 38 batters and walking 5 in 31 2/3 innings of work.
“My first 2 seasons in Gulf Coast League was a learning experience.” He told us, “my transition from high school to pro ball was a huge jump. I came from facing maybe 3 big hitters in the lineup in high school to facing the last batter that can potentially hit a homerun. It made me use all my pitches effectively and pound the strike zone.”
Nestor spent the 2015 season with the Pulaski Yankees, where in their inaugural season became a regular starter. In 12 games, 10 starts, he struck out 66 batters over 63 2/3 innings while earning a 6-3 record with a 2.26 ERA even gaining notoriety for starting a Triple-Play on July 6.
“It was bases loaded with the 4th batter up,” Cortes told us while describing the play, “in my head I was just trying to get a ground ball for the double play. I threw a slider well inside and jammed him up. A soft line drive was hit back at me. I dove to my right side immediately stood up and threw to third. I was pumped to get a double play.”
“Thinking I had an open base to pitch the fifth batter. But little did I know,” he said, “I see my third baseman throw across the diamond because the runner from first base was half way up the line. When we got the triple play and got to the dugout my pitching coach was the first one up there I wanted to give him a high five so hard I scratched my eye lid where I was bleeding. At the moment I didn’t feel it cause of all the adrenaline. With that play I kept my team in the game.”
Then on August 23 Nester had one of his best games of the season, striking out 9 batters over 5 1/3 innings without allowing a hit or a walk to the Bluefield Blue Jays. Through the first 5 innings of the game he was perfect, and did not allow a single runner to reach base. “Once I mounted up 4 strikeouts in 2 innings I felt that it was going to be something special,” he told us, “after that my left fielder made a great play in the gap. When I’m out there I try to pitch to perfection. I’m very competitive. The pitch that was working the best for me was my fastball but had a great feel towards my curveball. That was the strikeout pitch that night. It was a lot tighter and sharper than usual.”
After the season ended Nester was named to the Appalachian League All-Star Team, “I was honored for the selection. I couldn’t thank my coaches and my team enough. They were the ones that allowed me to have an opportunity to be up there. Among all the good pitchers and good pitching performances throughout the league.”
Like fellow Yankees prospect Chaz Hebert and Dan Camarena, Cortes is not a hard thrower. High possess a fastball that is anywhere between the high-80s and low-90s and topping out at 93 miles per hour. “I like to use my fastball at any count,” he told us. He locates his fastball well compliments it with a changeup that sits between 75-70 miles per hour, a curveball in the low-mid-70s and a slider that is in the high-70s. He works mostly down in the zone and moves it well to either side to keep hitters off balance and get outs.
In 2016 Cortes will likely make the jump to Single-A, his success has earned him a spot in the rotation for the Charleston RiverDogs but a roster crunch might force him down to the Staten Island Yankees of the NY-Penn League.