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
  • Jobamania

    whoa sweet
    prospect profile outta no where

  • Andy in Sunny Daytona

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

    • Salty Buggah

      Lucky bastard. 12 degrees here. It was -6 yesterday evening.

      • Salty Buggah

        Actually. Now it’s 10 degrees and it’s 2 in the afternoon. I hate Colorado weather.

        • Andy in Sunny Daytona

          …but it’s a dry cold.

          • Salty Buggah

            Actually, that’s even worse for me. 10 years here and I’m still not used to this weather. That’s why I like going back to NY.

          • JMK THE OVERSHARE’s Milton Bradley Fat Park Factor

            Yeah it doesn’t count. Live in Vermont, pussy.

            • Salty Buggah

              Cold and boring? Might as well go live in Canada…

              • JMK THE OVERSHARE’s Milton Bradley Fat Park Factor

                Vermont’s ok. Not my thing, but I understand the appeal. Montreal and Vancouver are awesome. I’d have no objection to living in those two cities. You really do get used to the cold after a while.

                • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

                  You really do get used to the cold after a while.

                  I’m sure if I lived in Miami, I’d really get used to all the girls wearing short shorts and bikini tops after a while.

                • Salty Buggah

                  Dont know anything about Montreal but Vancouver is good. My cousins used to live there for a bit and they liked it. And I dated an Indian girl from there once and she and her 2 sisters were smoking.

                • JMK THE OVERSHARE’s Milton Bradley Fat Park Factor

                  I’m sure if I lived in Miami, I’d really get used to all the girls wearing short shorts and bikini tops after a while.

                  Then what are you waiting for?

                  And I dated an Indian girl from there once and she and her 2 sisters were smoking.

                  Man, tons of Native American chatter today. Weird. Were they smoking as in hot? Or smoking Spirits? Anyway, word of advice, start a Native American-themed fast food chain. Make sure the smoking girls are mascots. Can’t miss business opportunity.

                • Salty Buggah

                  Heh no, Indian as in from India.

                • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

                  Then what are you waiting for?

                  FACT: tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada has already booked a flight to Miami for the Christmas/New Year holiday. Currently T-minus 11 days and counting. FACT.

                • Chip

                  Don’t complain about the cold guys. It’d currently -3 degrees here in North Dakota and we had about a -30 wind chill this morning. Sad thing is, this would be considered a warm day in February….

                • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

                  North Dakota makes Nebraska look like Rio de Janeiro during carnaval.

                • Salty Buggah

                  North Dakota or Vermont…which is worse?

                • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

                  Non-fun fact:

                  Vermont is the only state in the nation with a state capital with a population smaller that 10,000 residents.

                • JMK THE OVERSHARE’s Milton Bradley Fat Park Factor

                  And the only one without a McDonalds either.

                • JMK THE OVERSHARE’s Milton Bradley Fat Park Factor

                  North Dakota is WAYYYYY worse than Vermont. I haven’t been to ND, so I can’t be certain.

                • Keanu Reeves

                  Re: Montpelier

                  It’s just a plain old weird place.

                • Keanu Reeves

                  And then there’s this.


                  I played baseball with the curly haired kid. He’s nuts.

            • Keanu Reeves

              Represent. I live just north of Burlington and have all my life. I don’t mind the cold and the snow, it just sucks how long the winters last.

              From say, November to February, it’s alright. But when it’s still winter in late April, sometimes early May, that’s when I hate it here.

              • JMK THE OVERSHARE’s Milton Bradley Fat Park Factor

                If I make it up again sometime soon we’ll grab a drink, Old North End style. I won’t roofie you. Pinky swear.

                • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

                  WARNING: I wouldn’t pinky swear with JMK if I were you. You don’t know where that pinky’s been.

                • Keanu Reeves

                  Well…as long as you pinky swear. Haha.

              • OldYanksFan

                Wow… I didn’t know there was a ‘North’ of Burlington!
                Disclaimer: Used to vacation on the Hero Islands.

  • Mike bk

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

  • pat

    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

      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

        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

      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.

  • larryf

    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

      I liked this comment until the last sentence.

      • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

        Kinda like most of your dates, eh?

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

        • JMK THE OVERSHARE’s Milton Bradley Fat Park Factor

          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.


          • Steve H


            (and I just called the cops on you)

            • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

              The cops?

              Better call Clarice Starling.

              • Steve H

                It puts the lotion in the basket.


    • DP

      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

        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

          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

          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?

          • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

            What issues does he still have?

            Issue he still has: He’s not in the bullpen.


  • Rose

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

    • A.D.

      Prob moved it back on top since it got overshadowed by various news and such.

    • Joseph Pawlikowski

      Yeah, had it up for a few minutes this morning, but the Pettitte news bumped it.

      • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

        Andy Pettitte is a selfish, greedy bastard of a media hog.

        • thurdonpaul

          yeah, to make up for that, he should give me just 1 of his millions :)

  • JGS

    so, a Jon Garland type?

  • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

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

    So, he’s the Anti-Tiger Woods?

    • ClayBuchholzLovesLaptops

      Why do you now call yourself “Archimedes Torquemada”?

      • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

        Ron: Brick, where did you get a grenade?
        Brick: I don’t know.

        • ClayBuchholzLovesLaptops

          Great story. Compelling and rich.

      • Steve H

        Is it because Ridiculous Upside has been taken over by the only and only Jesus?

        • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

          I give because I love.

          • Steve H

            You don’t need to give anything to Jesus. If he wants, he gets.

            • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada
              • Evil Empire
                • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

                  MTSU represent!!!

                • Evil Empire

                  “Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Savior of All Mankind, and current defensive coordinator at Middle Tennessee State”

                  I laughed so hard I cried when I first read that.

                • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

                  Tonight’s gameplan:

                  1) Kill the quarterback
                  2) Heal the quarterback’s wounds and love him like he was your brother
                  3) Kill the quarterback again

  • Steve H

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

    • Chip

      If it ain’t broke…..

      Seriously, if a guy has good control of a 92-94 mph fastball and is flashing two good offspeed pitches, you don’t change his delivery

      • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada


      • Steve H

        I agree to a point. What is his (ridiculous) upside if he can create more deception? If you throw 92-94 with two good offspeed pitches and can create deception, then we’re talking top of the rotation ability. As is, he’s what 4-5 guy peak, or bullpen arm? Sure he carries value that way, but if there’s potentially more, I’d like to see them take a shot at mixing it up. Though I think you do that at 18 or 19, not at 23.

        • Chip

          If you can spot a fastball at that speed and have a good to above-average change, you’ve got most pitchers on the planet beat. I’d rather him throw a great change-up to give him deception rather than hide his fastball a bit better.

          • Steve H

            Yeah, I just wonder if it would have been beneficial at 18 to see what tweaks (not a total overhaul) could have been made.

            • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Archimedes Torquemada

              Let’s build a time machine.

              • Steve H

                You built a time machine, out of a Delorean?

  • Troy

    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.

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