Coming in at number 25 on the Baltimore Orioles preseason top 30 prospects list is Nestor Cortes Jr. He comes in ahead of number 26 Jesus Liranzo.
The 23 year old is a native of Hialeah Florida. He was taken in the 36th round of the draft out of high school by the New York Yankees in 2013. He stayed in the Yankees organization for the past five seasons before being taken in the Rule-5 draft by the Orioles.
He spent his first three pro seasons in rookie ball, spending two years in the Gulf Coast League and one in the Appalachian League.
Most of his time in the GCL was out of the bullpen, only making five starts in 21 total appearances. In those appearances he carried a 3.06 ERA with 58 strikeouts and 10 walks in 50 innings.
In his one season in the Appalachian League, Cortes featured more as a starter with 10 starts in 12 total appearances. He adapted well to the new role, pitching to a six and three record with a 2.26 ERA, 66 strikeouts, and 10 walks over 63.2 innings.
The next season Cortes spent time at all four full season minor league affiliates, spending most of his time between the two A level affiliates. He appeared in 13 games in Low A, six games in Advanced A, and one game each in AA and AAA. In those 21 appearances he made 12 starts and pitched a total of 106 innings. He had an ERA of 1.53 striking out 115 compared to 24 walks.
A stellar 2016 performance lead to him spending most of the 2017 season in AA and AAA, but he also made one appearance in Advanced A ball. In 30 appearances including 13 starts in 2017, Cortes pitched a total of 104.2 innings with a seven and four record. Cortes’ era rose with the increased competition to 2.06, but he kept a strong K to BB ratio at 105 strikeouts vs 32 walks.
Since coming to the Orioles he has made two spring training starts. Like most Orioles starters this spring, he has not been perfect. He has faced 17 batters so far giving up two runs on five hits, three strikeouts, and no walks in four innings pitched
Since he was selected in the rule-5 draft, Cortes must stay on the 25 man roster all season if the Orioles want to keep his rights. Based on that, his strong performance in the minors, and the Orioles weak rotation, Cortes will likely find himself on the back end of the rotation on Opening Day.
Analysis from MLB.com
Cortes doesn’t wow with his size and stuff, but there’s something to be said about his ability to get hitters out. While he pitches with fringy velocity, often topping out around 89-90 mph, his fastball plays up because he commands it well to both sides of the plate while working from several different arm angles. He’s adept at changing speeds and keeping hitters off-balance with each of his three secondary offerings, and in concert his arsenal produces a surprising number of whiffs as well as consistent weak contact.
MLB.com scouting grades (20-80) scale
Fastball: 45 | Curveball: 50 | Slider: 45 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 55 | Overall: 45