Yankees pitcher Nestor Cortés has taken MLB by storm, coming seemingly out of nowhere and catapulting himself to the top of one of baseball’s best rotations. As a top ten AL Cy Young finisher in 2022, he has proven himself to be among the top pitchers in today’s game. This great success can be attributed to Cortés’ incredibly dominant fastball.
But what’s interesting about Cortés is that he does not throw the ball hard. Sure, his fastball spin rate is solidly above average (68th percentile), but aside from that it seems that it should be a subpar pitch. It is a fact that fastball velocity and effectiveness are directly related, with harder throwers being more effective than soft tossers. Yet, even with its 10th percentile velocity, Nestor Cortes had the second most valuable MLB fastball in 2022 according to run value, behind only AL Cy Young and future Hall of Famer Justin Verlander.
How is Cortés’ 92 mph fastball more effective than the 100 mile an hour fireballs thrown by the likes of Spencer Strider and Luis Castillo? What makes Nestor’s Four-Seamer so incredibly nasty?
Well, with what he concedes in velocity, he more than makes up for in movement. Cortés’ fastball “rises” 3.2 inches more than league average, good for 5th league wide. Additionally, Cortés never throws two pitches the same way, adding deception to his delivery.
If one thing makes for a hittable pitcher, it’s being average. If a pitcher throws a fastball, changeup, and curveball that look like every other pitcher’s weapons, they won’t last long in MLB. Cortés can be called many things, but average isn’t one of them. A slow, rising fastball trajectory, when combined with a funky lefty delivery, somehow makes for one of baseball’s best pitches.