Sunday Notes: Carlos Cortes is a Switch-Thrower Who Knows Baseball is Hard

Carlos Cortes might be the most-unique player available in the upcoming Rule 5 draft. A 24-year-old multi-positional player whom the New York Mets took in the third round of the 2018 draft out of the University of South Carolina, Cortes is ambidextrous. When stationed at second base, he throws right-handed. When patrolling the outfield, he throws from his natural left side.

The both-ways ability dates back to his formative years in the Orlando area.

“When I was around eight years old, my dad told me that my chances of playing a position would increase if I was able to throw right-handed,” explained Cortes, who currently stands 5-foot-7. “I didn’t really like it at first — he kind of forced me to do it — but by the time I got to high school, I was pretty natural with it. I caught my first couple years, then played second my junior and senior years, as well as in the outfield. I kind of played everywhere.”

Everywhere included the mound. Throwing left-handed, Cortes sat comfortably in the high-80s and became Lake Howell High School’s closer in his final prep season. Then came his collegiate experience. Eschewing the opportunity to sign with the Mets as a 20th-round pick in 2016, Cortes proceeded to play primarily in the outfield with the Gamecocks, putting up a .906 OPS along the way.

New York’s National League entry subsequently drafted Cortes — this time as an infielder — for a second time in three years. Employed as a second baseman for his initial professional seasons, the versatile youngster was transitioned back to the outfield for the just-completed 2021 campaign.

Somewhat surprisingly, Cortes swings exclusively from the left side. Once again, it was per his father’s direction.

“Switch-hitters always seem to struggle from one side, so my dad felt that if I could perfect hitting left-handed, I’d be all right,” explained Cortes. “I’ve stuck with that, and while I had some rough splits early in my career, I’ve gotten better.”

His overall offensive game is solid. Cortes put up a 120 wRC+ at Double-A Binghamton this year, augmenting his .257/.332/.487 slash line with 14 home runs in 346 plate appearances. The surprising-for-his-size pop is largely the result of his natural progression as a hitter, and not because of a mechanical adjustment or change of approach.

“Guys always want to go to launch angle, and stuff like that, but I think you just adapt and get better,” said Cortes. “And I have gotten better. Obviously, I haven’t hit for as high of an average as I did in college, but baseball is hard. People tend to forget that. They look at the numbers and say, ‘Oh, this guy isn’t doing as well as he used to,’ but pitchers are really good, and they’re continuing to get better. Look at how many guys are throwing 100 [mph] now. It’s wipeout stuff. Baseball is a hard game. Really hard.”

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RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS

Pinky Swander went 2 for 5 against Ambrose Puttmann.

Pinky Pittenger went 2 for 5 against Herman Pillette.

Pinky Hargrave went 2 for 5 against Herm Holshouser.

Pinky Higgins went 2 for 5 against Clyde Hatter.

Dave Brain went 2 for 8 against Chick Robitaille.

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Danny Farquhar’s pitching career was relatively unremarkable. The now-34-year-old former reliever made 253 appearances and was credited with 10 wins and 18 saves while playing for four teams. In five full seasons, bookended by parts of two more, he registered a 3.93 ERA and a 3.60 FIP.

Things came crashing down in July 2018. Farquhar, then a member of the Chicago White Sox, collapsed after returning to the dugout after a sixth-inning outing against the Houston Astros. Just 31 years of age, Farquhar suffered had a ruptured brain aneurysm.

“The bleeding on the left side of my brain affected the right side of my body, and I’m a right-handed pitcher,” explained Farquhar, whose comeback attempt the following season went for naught. “As a person, I’m minimally affected now — minimal compared to the damage that a ruptured brain aneurysm [typically] does — but as far as being a major league player, an elite athlete, it’s pretty limiting.”

His efforts are now on the player development side. Farquhar is currently the pitching coach for Chicago’s High-A affiliate, the Winston-Salem Dash. As you’d expect, his new role entails embracing analytics and modern-day training.

“As a White Sox pitching-coaching staff, we’re very in-tuned with how the body moves in the most efficient ways to gain velocity and create movement,” said Farquhar, who has spent the last month tutoring hurlers with the Arizona Fall League’s Glendale Desert Dogs. “We do a bunch of different sources, with a bunch of different people, to try to figure out the ways that work best for us.”

Farquhar shared that the White Sox organization has largely gone away from Rapsodo and is primarily relying on TrackMan and Edgertronic — tools that Farquhar opined are “really good to help pitch design.”

As for the feedback he delivers during throwing sessions, the pitcher-turned-coach believes in a measured approach.

“It depends on the guy, and you also can’t be showing them the numbers on every single pitch,” said Farquhar, whose eyes were first opened to pitching analytics when he played for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2016 and 2017. “As a coach, you have to filter out the information. A lot of times, you’ll just tell them, ‘Good pitch.’ You don’t want to flood their brains with too much information.”

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A quiz:

Stan Musial had 475 home runs, the most in St. Louis Cardinals franchise history. Which former Cardinal ranks second in that category?

The answer can be found below.

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NEWS NOTES

The Chicago Cubs have hired Daniel Moskos as their new assistant pitching coach. Featured here at FanGraphs in June 2020, the erstwhile big-league left-hander spent this past season as a minor-league pitching coach in the Yankees system.

The Texas Rangers have promoted Jesse Behr to Coordinator, Player Development Projects. The Arizona State University graduate has been serving as the club’s minor league video coordinator.

Julio Lugo, an infielder for seven teams from 2000-2011, died earlier this week — reportedly from a heart attack — at age 45. A native of the Dominican Republic, Lugo was a member of the 2007 Boston Red Sox World Series championship team.

Jerry Johnson, a right-hander for seven teams from 1968-1977, died earlier this month at age 77. The winning pitcher in the Toronto Blue Jays’ first-ever game, Johnson had his best season in 1971 when he logged a 2.97 ERA in 109 relief innings with the San Francisco Giants.

Memo Luna, who appeared in one game for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1954, died earlier this month at age 91. A southpaw from Tacubaya, Distrito Federal, Mexico, Luna was the seventh of the 139 players from his homeland to play in MLB.

MLB announced on Friday that the Kansas City Royals have been honored with the 2021 Allan H. Selig Award for Philanthropic Excellence. Per MLB.com’s Anne Rogers, the honor centered on “The club’s Response to Recovery efforts that utilized the Kansas City Urban Youth Academy as a community resource…”

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The answer to the quiz is Albert Pujols, who hit 445 of his 679 home runs with the Cardinals. Ken Boyer ranks third on the franchise list with 255 home runs.

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David Hamilton capped off a solid 2021 campaign with an impressive stint in the Arizona Fall League. On the heels of a .258/.341/.419 showing between High-A Wisconsin and Double-A Biloxi, the 24-year-old Milwaukee Brewers middle-infield prospect slashed a heady .293/.453/.463 with the AFL’s Salt River Rafters.

A lofty stolen-base total highlights his regular-season stat sheet. Hamilton pilfered 52 bags, in the process surpassing a personal goal: in late-May, the University of Texas product told FanGraphs that he aspired to reach the 50 mark. And he’s not simply a speedster. Swinging from the left side, Hamilton stroked 38 extra-base hits, including eight of the long-ball variety.

“For my first full season, I feel like it was a good season,” said Hamilton, who was drafted in 2019 but hadn’t yet played due to a torn Achilles tendon and the pandemic. “I didn’t hit as well as I wanted to, but the speed was there; I got my target. But overall, I still have a lot of things to work on. There’s a lot of room for improvement.”

Hamilton shared that the adjustments he made this year were primarily approach-based, and “really nothing mechanical-wise.” His offseason objectives are general in nature. Aspiring to train harder than he did last winter, Hamilton plans to “work on everything.”

Per The Board, Hamilton ranks as Milwaukee’s No. 15 prospect. His FV is 40+.

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FOREIGN AFFAIRS

The KT Wiz swept their four-game series with the Doosan Bears to capture this year’s KBO championship. It was the club’s first Korean Series title.

Woo-young Jung threw 64 innings, by far the most among KBO pitchers who went all season without surrendering a home run. The 22-year-old LG Twins right-hander allowed 43 hits and had a 2.25 ERA.

Drew Rucinski went 15-10 with a 3.17 ERA for the NC Dinos. The 32-year-old former Miami Marlins right-hander had 177 strikeouts in 178-and-two-thirds innings.

Over in Japan, Yoshinobu Yamamoto went 18-5 with a 1.39 ERA for the Orix Buffaloes. The 23-year-old right-hander allowed 124 hits — only seven of them for home runs — in 193-and-two-thirds innings. He had an NBP-best 206 strikeouts.

The Orix Buffaloes rallied for three runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to beat the Yakult Swallows 4-3 in Game One of the Japan Series on Saturday. Adam Jones drew a key pinch-hit walk in the deciding frame, which was culminated by a Masataka Yoshida double. The win was credited to Motoki Higa, who at 38 years, 11 months became the oldest reliever to win a Nippon Series game.

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Kansas City Royals hitting coordinator Drew Saylor discussed several of the organization’s top position-player prospects in this past Friday’s episode of FanGraphs Audio. Notable among them was 22-year-old catcher MJ Melendez, whose 41 home runs were the most in the minors. A 2017 second-round pick out of a Miami high school, Melendez augmented his tater total with a .288/.386/.625 slash line between Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha.

“MJ is close [to the big leagues],” Saylor opined on the pod. “One of the things that was really cool to see in his evolution over the last two years is how he’s learned some of the tech, the data — but more importantly, the game-planning and strategy components [and] really understanding pitch-shape and trajectory. [Also] getting cleaned up a little bit with some of the directionality pieces. Him and [special assistant hitting coordinator] Mike Tosar did a really good job of that during the alt time down in Miami.

“MJ has done an incredible job of being able to understand the tools of intelligence, and how you can leverage those little pieces of information on both sides of the ball. For me, it was just a really joyful process to be able to watch the season that he put up this year. Yet another guy that works incredibly hard. I don’t want to try to do the same superlative that I did with with Bobby [Witt Jr.], but MJ is very much up there, too. God bestowed upon him tools that he didn’t bestow on anybody else. Now he’s learning how to be able to play with those tools consistently. That’s why he was able to have the season that he had.”

Other players discussed on the podcast include Nathan Eaton, Kyle Isbel, Nick Loftin, Seuly Matias, Erick Peña, Nick Pratto, and Bobby Witt Jr.

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LINKS YOU’LL LIKE

The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier shared what voting for the AL Cy Young Award taught him about modern pitching analytics.

At Motor City Bengals, Roger Castillo wrote about how the Detroit Tigers will be fine without Justin Verlander.

Will the knuckleball ever make a comeback? Deadspin’s Jon Hoefling addressed that question with R.A. Dickey.

A 1916 Babe Ruth baseball card recently sold for $2.46 million. Patrick Saunders has the story at The Denver Post.

MLB teams will now be responsible for minor league housing. Josh Norris shared the specifics at Baseball America.

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RANDOM FACTS AND STATS

Salvador Perez and Mike Zunino each hit 33 home runs this season when in the lineup as a catcher. Overall, Perez had a .359 wOBA and a 127 wRC+. Zunino had a .358 wOBA and a 134 wRC+.

George Brett and Mike Schmidt were selected back-to-back in the second round of the 1971 draft. The Hall of Fame third baseman went 29th and 30th overall.

Maury Wills’s given name is Maurice Morning Wills.

The 1979 Houston Astros hit 49 home runs and 52 triples. Jose Cruz led the club with nine round-trippers, while Craig Reynolds had nine three-baggers.

Roger Metzger twice led the National League in triples, swatting 11 in 1971, and 14 more in 1973. A slick-fielding shortstop who played primarily with the Astros, Metzger finished his career with 71 triples, five home runs, and a 68 wRC+.

Ferris Fain had a three-year stretch (1952-1954) with the Philadelphia A’s where he slashed .316/.439/.432 and drew 318 walks while striking out just 72 times. He won batting titles in two of those seasons.

The Boston Red Sox signed Sun-Woo Kim as an amateur free agent on today’s date in 1997. The fifth of 27 South Korean-born players in MLB history, Kim went on to pitch in 118 games for four teams from 2001-2006.

The Texas Rangers signed Ruben Sierra as an amateur free agent on today’s date in 1982. The Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico native went on to play 20 big-league seasons — 10 of them with Texas — and make four All-Star teams. He went deep 306 times.

Players born on today’s date include Ken Griffey, Jr. and Stan Musial. Griffey finished his career with a 131 wRC+ and 77.7 WAR. Musial finished his career with a 158 wRC+ and 128.8 WAR.

Also born on today’s date was Pinky Jorgensen, whose big-league career comprised six games for the Cincinnati Reds in 1937. An outfielder who batted third in all three of his starts, “Pinky” logged three of his four career hits in a double-header against the Brooklyn Dodgers. His final hit came the following day.





David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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sogoodlooking
8 months ago

The Mets moved Cortes off 2B entirely in 2021, in favor of guys like Luis Carpio and Yoel Romero, MIs with no real future, so Cortes’ prospects look less than stellar as a corner OFer who doesn’t get on base and with just one season with any pop on his resume—and even that was in just half a season, his first taste as a 24 yo of life above A ball. Will someone with no one else on hand take him as their 5th OFer who can fill in in the IF in a pinch?

Stay tuned.

sadtrombonemember
8 months ago
Reply to  sogoodlooking

Doesn’t seem likely! With the implementation of the 13-pitcher maximum on MLB rosters, it seems like the unexpected Rule 5 picks will be (1) 3rd catchers or (2) guys who both have upside and could serve as a pinch-runner and defensive replacement in the outfield. Think guys like Brandon Lockridge and Josh Breaux on the Yankees, Carlos Rodriguez on the Brewers, Brandon Valenzuela on the Padres, and Andres Melendez on the Guardians. Cortes is going to have a hard time hitting or fielding and his ceiling isn’t particularly high compared to someone like Aaron Bracho (also Rule 5 eligible but unlikely to be picked) so I don’t really see why a team would try to roster him all year.

Dmjn53
8 months ago
Reply to  sogoodlooking

I don’t see him getting taken. He’s not ready to take up the roster spot on a good team, and he doesn’t have enough ceiling to draft and stash on a bad team