Prospect Profile: Ivan Nova


Ivan Nova
Ivan Nova | RHP

Nova was born and raised in San Cristobal, Dominican Republic, which also produced notable big league pitchers Jose Rijo, Ervin Santana, and Francisco Liriano. Yankee scout Carlos Rios, who was later fired as part of the bonus skimming scandal involving Kelvin DeLeon, signed Nova as an 18-year-old in 2005.

Pro Career
After signing, Nova was assigned to the Yankees1 squad of the Dominican Summer League (they have two teams), where he put up a 38-11 K/BB ratio with a 2.29 ERA (2.76 FIP) in 39 IP over eleven games (seven starts). Nova came to the States in 2006, making ten multiple inning appearances for the rookie level Gulf Coast League Yankees as part of a tandem-starter system. He posted a 2.72 ERA (3.53 FIP) with a 36-7 K/BB ratio in 43 IP.

Following his strong showing in the GCL, the Yanks felt the 20-year-old Nova was ready for full season ball in 2007, sending him to Low-A Charleston. Working exclusively as a starter, Nova allowed 121 hits in 99.1 IP (21 starts), striking out just 54 batters against 31 walks. His ERA was a bloated 4.98, though his FIP was a much more respectable 4.10. After the season, Baseball America ranked Nova as the Yankees’ 18th best prospect.

Despite Nova’s pedestrian year in 2007, the Yanks bumped him up to High-A Tampa in 2008 to again work out of the rotation. In 24 starts (and two relief appearances), Nova allowed 168 hits in 148.2 IP, though he improved his strikeout rate and whiffed 109 against just 46 walks. His ERA (4.36) told one story, his FIP (3.19) another. Through two full seasons and another partial season, Nova demonstrated that he wasn’t the kind of pitcher that would hurt himself, allowing just 2.6 walks and 0.59 homers for every nine innings pitched.

With no experience above A-ball and just two months until his 22nd birthday, the Yankees left Nova off their 40-man roster following the 2008 season, exposing him to the Rule 5 Draft. Liking his arm and in need of all the pitching talent they can get, the Padres selected Nova with the 20th overall selection in the Major League portion of the Rule 5 Draft, meaning he would have to be added to their 40-man roster immediately, and spend the entire season on their 25-man big league roster in order for the Padres to retain his rights. The Yankees received $50,000 as per the Rule 5 rules.

Baseball America ranked Nova as San Diego’s 30th best prospect prior to the season, and he made eight appearances in Major League Spring Training with the Padres, all in relief. He worked just 8.1 innings, allowing 13 hits and 11 runs with a 3-4 K/BB ratio. San Diego placed Nova on waivers near the end of Spring Training, when it was apparent there was no spot for him on their Opening Day roster. Nova went unclaimed (the Rule 5 rules would have been transferred to his new team if he had been claimed), and was returned to the Yankees for half the original $50,000 fee.

Because he worked in relief during his brief time with the Padres, the Yanks sent Nova to Extending Spring Training to start 2009. He joined the Double-A Trenton rotation in mid-April, after he was properly stretched out. Through five starts, it looked like we were headed for a typical Nova season. He had allowed 30 hits with a 17-17 K/BB ratio in 28.1 IP, good for a 4.13 ERA (4.26 FIP). However, something clicked in mid-May, and Nova ran off a streak of seven starts in which he allowed just 35 hits with a 30-14 K/BB ratio (1.22 ERA, 3.38 FIP) in 44.1 IP.

The hot streak earned Nova a promotion to Triple-A Scranton in late June, and at first his dominance continued. He allowed just three runs in his first two starts (13.1 IP), though he ran into a bit of a wall after that. Nova remained in Scranton the rest of the season, ultimately putting up a 43-28 K/BB ratio with 72 hits allowed in 67 IP (12 starts). His 5.10 ERA was ugly, but the 3.95 FIP indicates is wasn’t as bad as it seems.

Once again eligible for the Rule 5 Draft in 2009, the Yankees made sure no one else would be able to get their hands on Nova by adding him to the 40-man roster on the November 20th deadline.

Scouting Report
A big bodied righthander (6′-4″, 210 lbs) with a classic pitcher’s frame, Nova works with three average pitches that have shown flashes of developing into more. He parks his fastball at 92-94 mph consistently, and he’s able to drive it down into the bottom third of the strike zone to generate plenty of groundballs (career 50.6% ground rate). He backs it up with a good fading changeup, and a trademark Nardi Contreras curveball serves as his third best pitch, though it remains inconsistent. When either of his offspeed offerings is working, Nova has a legit put-away pitch. When both are working, he can be unhittable.

Nova has proven to be very durable in recent years, which stems from his fluid and easily repeatable delivery. However, that delivery is a double-edged sword. It allows him to command the ball to both sides of the plate, but at the same time he completely lacks deception, so hitters get a good look at the ball before he releases it, hence why he’s allowed almost ten hits per nine innings pitched in his career. A good athlete, Nova fields his position adequately and generally does a good job holding runners.

Here’s a clip of Nova throwing in the bullpen, and another of him in a game, courtesy of Mike Ashmore.

2010 Outlook
Nova will return to Triple-A Scranton to start the year, and after being added to the 40-man roster in the offseason, he’ll be among the first called up whenever the big league team needs reinforcements.

My Take
Nova’s always been a guy with a great arm that never seemed able to getting it all going at once, however he showed what he was capable of with Trenton this summer. However, let’s not forget that in a three-plus year career, there’s been just one stretch of seven starts in which Nova has started to fulfill some of his promise. His breakout in the first half of 2009 vaults him up the prospect lists because he’s so close to big leagues, and he’ll almost assuredly make his Major League debut in 2010 as a 23-year-old. Nova’s ultimate ceiling is a mid-to-back of the rotation starter that takes the ball every five days without incident. If the manages to hide the ball a little more during his delivery, that will boost him up a notch.

Photo Credit: Mike Ashmore

Categories : Prospect Profiles


  1. Jobamania says:

    whoa sweet
    prospect profile outta no where

  2. Andy in Sunny Daytona says:

    Prospect Profile makes a cold 75° day like this, bearable.

  3. Mike bk says:

    Axisa, seems like you are making a sell high type case for Nova here?

  4. pat says:

    If he doesn’t get called up in place of an injury I can see the Yanks giving him a shot in the bullpen. 92-94 can jump to 95, 96 if he’s airing it out for an inning or two.

    • Evil Empire says:

      Agreed. Give him (Or Z-Mac … or both) the Chamberlain/Hughes treatment. A year in the bullpen just for the sake of getting experience at the major league level is very valuable to their long term development, not to mention the short term benefit for the 2010 team if they can positive contribute.

      • Ed says:

        It’ll work better with these guys too, as they worked their way up through the minors and should be conditioned for a full season, or close to it, by now.

    • Ted Nelson says:

      Might end up as a reliever in the long-term anyway… Definitely seems like an option. His numbers to date don’t jump out at me and say “I had a few good games in AA, so I’m clearly a Yankees starter.” Maybe a Mitre type replacement level starter, but there’s a good chance he’ll be in the Royals rotation or a bullpen if he’s in the big leagues. Then again, he’s young and maybe I’m being too harsh.

  5. larryf says:

    I saw Nova pitch against Durham against Andy Sonnanstine this summer. He looked great and, of the two, looked like the more polished pitcher. Who knows if he’ll work out but he has a great arm, great size and great mechanics. 2 out of 3 better than Joba!!!

    • JMK THE OVERSHARE's Milton Bradley Fat Park Factor says:

      I liked this comment until the last sentence.

      • Kinda like most of your dates, eh?

        Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, OH NO

        • JMK THE OVERSHARE's Milton Bradley Fat Park Factor says:

          Here’s how they usually go:

          At a dimly-lit bar, a mysterious stranger wearing a fedora and suit approaches a portly 30-something woman with a weathered, jaundiced complexion, garish dress and a hangnail protruding from her stiletto sandal.

          Overshare (smoothly): You must be tired, because you’ve been running from me in my squirt dreams. That’s about all the running you appear to do, though.

          Woman (drunkenly): Whaaaat, asshole?

          Overshare smiles, soothing the woman’s aggression.

          Woman: Hey, do I know you? You wanna buy me a drink?

          Overshare (to bartender): Bartender—get this woman a Disarono with orange juice. Women love that shit. By the way, what do you think of my new haircut? Nevermind—don’t answer that.

          Overshare (to woman): Here’s how it goes down: you’re going to enjoy this drink. You’ll then touch my penis. I’ll pay for the drink and later we’ll have sex. You won’t know it, though.

          Bartender: Here’s your drink, sir.

          Overshare drops some GHB into the drink, places it in front of the “lady.” Woman drinks the Disoroofie.

          Woman: Hey, I don’t feel so great.

          Overshare: Let’s get out of here, toots.

          Overshare tosses a $10 onto the bar and walks out with the woman.

          Overshare: Oh, by the way, I don’t have a car. So we’re going to have to grab the train then have my mom pick us up at take us to my garden apartment. There are candles though. You like candles, don’t you?

          Woman is snoring.

          Overshare (looking adoringly at passed out “date”): Sleep well, my weather-beaten love. You’ll need your strength for my squirt dream and the soothing tones of Justin Bieber.


    • DP says:

      Since I’m assuming size is one, I can’t even figure out what the 2nd one is.

      • JMK THE OVERSHARE's Milton Bradley Fat Park Factor says:

        Well, his mechanics are iffy. The other is size, though I disagree with that. Joba being 6’2 240 is probably a good thing but he must think “great size” is 6’4 210, meaning he thinks Joba is fat and in poor physical shape. Whatevs.

        • larryf says:

          Joba can throw harder but I thought Nova had better mechanics and his long/lean frame was preferable to Joba’s weight/short arms and poor mechanics..

        • Ed says:

          How iffy are Joba’s mechanics now? I’ve seen tons of people refer to the scouting reports back when he was drafted as their basis in saying that. Those reports aren’t relevant anymore, as the the Yankees immediately reworked his mechanics after he signed. I’ve never seen anyone point to a more recent assessment of his mechanics. What issues does he still have?

  6. Rose says:

    Didn’t you guys already have this prospect profile not too long ago? Like yesterday or even earlier today??

  7. JGS says:

    so, a Jon Garland type?

  8. Nova demonstrated that he wasn’t the kind of pitcher that would hurt himself…

    So, he’s the Anti-Tiger Woods?

  9. Steve H says:

    Have they tried alterting his delivery at all to give him more deception on his pitches?

  10. Troy says:

    That delivery leads me to believe major league hitters would crush him…so I feel that’ll need some working up on. I’m sure Nova and the Yankees have been working to fix that.

  11. [...] the triple-A affiliate of the New York Mets. Jesus Montero doubled in the game’s only run, while Ivan Nova (4 innings), Mark Melancon (2 innings), Boone Logan (2 innings) and Jonathan Albaledejo (1 inning) [...]

  12. [...] Donnie Collins, the Yankees have called up Ivan Nova in advance of tonight’s game. With Sergio Mitre and Javy Vazquez set to start the next two [...]

  13. [...] Big ups to Colin Curtis for making his big league debut tonight, even though it was just a pinch hitting appearance and he made an out. He’s the fourth player to make their big league debut for the Yanks this season, join Chad Huffman, Kevin Russo, and Ivan Nova. [...]

  14. [...] every team is looking for bullpen help — but there are a few interesting names on the farm. Ivan Nova, who made his major league debut earlier this season, is pitching well. Jason Hirsh has moved to [...]

  15. [...] rumors of an MLB probe, Yankee rookie Ivan Nova threw a gem against the White Sox on Sunday afternoon. He held the Chicago offense to one run over [...]

  16. [...] away. That can be a hyped prospect like Joba Chamberlain in 2007, but it doesn’t have to be. Ivan Nova has demonstrated that in the past few weeks. He fit into no one’s top 10 Yanks prospects, but [...]

  17. [...] There are also similarities in their delivery. Here’s what RABs Mike Axisa said about Nova last year: [...]

  18. [...] scouting report has been the same basically his entire career. He’s a fastball-curveball-changeup guy, [...]

  19. [...] fact that this was a player the Yankees didn’t even protect in the 2008 Rule V draft, and who they nearly lost to San Diego for chump change until the Padres apparently decided he wasn’t good enough for [...]

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