For the first time since 2018, the New York Yankees have a bonafide ace atop their rotation. They also have four more filling out the rest of the rotation.
Ask around, though, regarding who the Yankees’ current “ace” is, and you won’t get much variety in the answer pool. It won’t be the $324 million man Gerrit Cole, though. Most would agree New York’s best pitcher has been funkified left-hander Nestor Cortes Jr., who has officially declared that he’s either 22 flukes stacked on top of each other, or he’s actually very good.
Entering May, the conversation around Cortes centered around whether he’d actually be able to keep up his impressive array of arm angles and changing speeds long enough to make the All-Star Game. Now? The debate rages on about whether he should start the damn thing.
Objectively, barring a rapid adjustment in the opposite direction, he should be the choice, both for entertainment purposes and based on arm talent. Cortes is the rare double whammy where he’s both the best and most interesting option for baseball’s summer showcase … but, on the other hand, Dusty Baker is managing the damn game and his guy Justin Verlander has also been spectacular.
As opposed to Verlander’s typical, ho hum dominance, Cortes has been the talk of the town since April (since last summer, actually?), and you, personally, should talk him up every chance you get. Don’t talk to Hall of Famer Jim Kaat about Cortes, though. Might get a little awkward.
In another head-to-head opportunity with one of the game’s great stars, Shohei Ohtani, on Thursday afternoon, Cortes came up massive, getting stronger in the sixth and seventh en route to seven more shutout innings. His ERA now sits at 1.50.
Yankees’ Nestor Cortes shouldn’t just go to All-Star Game, but should start it
Rest assured: Verlander is an active Hall of Famer. He will make the roster for the game at Dodger Stadium. Honestly, if he doesn’t start, he might not pitch. His brilliance this season hasn’t quite reached Cortes’ level, though, an objectively insane sentence to type.
In 10 starts, Verlander is 6-2 with a 2.23 ERA, but has struck out fewer batters than innings pitched (61 whiffs in 64.2 innings). His season has been almost effortless, rebounding from Tommy John surgery with an 0.80 WHIP and looking every bit the pitcher he was prior to his injury (minus the exceptional strikeout total).
Cortes? In 10 starts, his WHIP is quite similar, slotting in slightly higher at 0.87. That’s not what matters, though. The left-hander has whiffed 68 men in 60 innings, recently mowing down the contending Angels, Rays and White Sox (twice!) while allowing five earned runs in 28 innings. His ERA on the year? 1.50. ONE POINT FIVE OH.
We hate to twist the knife, too, but this is baseball’s primary showcase. Do you really want all of Dodger Stadium booing a “Cheating Astro” for first pitch? Or, much like Fernando Valenzuela’s All-Star showcase once upon a time, wouldn’t you rather watch an historic oddity at the peak of his powers? He’s making history.
19 straight starts after Thursday’s outing. Three runs or fewer. A 27-year-old former 36th-round pick.
Your American League All-Star starter.