Scouting Padres Prospect Ivan Nova

Here's a scouting report on former New York Yankees pitching prospect Ivan Nova, selected in the Rule 5 Draft by the San Diego Padres (courtesy of Patrick Teale of PinstripesPlus.com).

The Yankees signed right-handed pitcher Ivan Nova out of the Dominican Republic back in 2004. With an ability to throw strikes and some of the best stuff in the entire organization, even though the Yankees lost other players in the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday, the selection of Nova by the San Diego Padres could prove to be the one that got away.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Ivan Nova
Position: Starting Pitcher
DOB: January 12, 1987
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 210
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

Despite having some of the best pure stuff in the organization, Ivan Nova went just 6-8 with a 4.98 ERA for the Charleston Riverdogs last season.

The numbers were better with the Tampa Yankees this season - a 4.36 ERA and twice as many strikeouts as last year - and he believes it is because he's learning how to setup batters better and use his stuff more.

"It was a positive season all throughout the year," Ivan Nova said through the help of a translator. "I had my ups and downs but it's just part of the process.

"I made better pitches this year than last year and overall I've learned how to pitch a bit better. I've had a few bumps along the way but it's been a learning experience."

While his higher ERA in the South Atlantic League season was a little worrisome, it was his less than two to one strikeout-to-walk ratio that befuddled team insiders, especially since he is armed with three above-average to plus pitches.

Unable to expand the zone and setup batters a year ago, Nova and the Yankees set forth the goal of improving in that area this season.

"It's something we've been working on," Nova admitted. "I was trying to put more guys away this year and that was a key to my success. I've learned a lot this year but I'm not quite there yet."

The Yankees' coaching staff agreed he wasn't a completely finished product either and it was the prevailing reason why he wasn't granted a 40-man roster spot this offseason and exposed in this year's Rule 5 Draft.

"He made great strides pitching for 'Pav' [Tampa pitching coach Greg Pavlik]," said Yankees minor league pitching coordinator Nardi Contreras. "This kid has a real great chance to pitch in the big leagues. I'm not saying it's going to be this coming year because that's all up to him.

"He has the changeup, he has the curveball, and of course he has both the power and now the sinking fastball. This year he worked on the sinker and with confidence pitched with it. It helped him get deeper into games. I know he competed well. He had some bad games, but he had many real good games too.

"‘Pav' likes what he saw in his progression. He's done well and he's just going to get better. Dominican kids don't have the same amateur setup as we do here in the states so it usually takes most of them a little longer. I'm very happy with how he's progressed in all areas of the game."

There's a lot to like about his improved strikeout-to-walk ratio this year, his lower batting average against, and higher ground ball out ratios, but he was still too inconsistent from start to start and Nova says improving his consistency is the next step in his development.

"I struggle a little bit with concentration," he self-analyzed. "I'll have lapses in concentration and that's when I run into trouble.

"When I don't make the right pitch to the right location I'll leave it up and my concentration lapses for a couple of pitches, that's where I still need to improve."

He allowed three earned runs or less in more than half of his games this season [17 of his 26 games], but also surrendered four earned runs or more in his remaining nine games.

It's that kind of inconsistency he's looking to correct over the offseason in preparation for the 2009 season.

Originally slated to open up the 2009 season in Double-A, now that he'll be competing for a big league roster spot withe the Padres, the Dominican native knows that's where he needs to make big strides - improving his pitch-ability and consistency.

"I just have to stay away from the mental lapses," he reiterated. "If I make a bad pitch I've got to be able to bounce back and make a good one on the very next pitch. If I keep my concentration, I know I can succeed."

Year

Team

W-L

IP

H

BB

SO

ERA

2008

Tampa

8-13

148.2

168

46

109

4.36

2007

Charleston

6-8

99.1

121

31

54

4.98

2006

Gulf Coast

3-0

43.0

36

7

36

2.72

2005

DSL

0-1

39.1

29

11

38

2.29



Repertoire. Fastball, Curveball, Changeup.

Fastball. Signed as a projection guy, Nova has seen his fastball average in the mid-to-upper 80's when he first signed to now comfortably sitting in the 91-94 MPH range with his four-seam fastball. He'll occasionally hit 95 MPH but he doesn't hit much higher than that. Some scouts, however, believe that with looseness in his arm and the ease of motion in his delivery, while it's currently a big plus for helping maintain his velocity deep into games, also offers some promise of some added velocity if he were to transition to the bullpen. He added a sinking two-seamer in 2008 with good movement but he could use some more work commanding it better. He can spot his four-seamer at will, however, and his smooth delivery allows him to sneak his heater by batters.

Other Pitches. Nova is at his absolute best when he's commanding his plus changeup and plus curveball. Both pitches made great strides this past season from a consistency standpoint. Once prone to throwing his changeup a bit too hard, he was able to slow it down more frequently in 2008. And once unable to consistently throw his curveball from the same release point, it wasn't an issue for him this past season. He also made marked improvements throwing both pitches more consistently in the lower-half of the strike zone.

Pitching. Nova' ease of motion is a byproduct of his calm demeanor on the mound. He rarely gets rattled and he goes right after batters. In fact, sometimes that is his biggest downfall, staying in the strike zone too much and often times looking for contact rather than putting away batters. He made a big leap in expanding the zone this past season and forcing batters to chase his pitches a bit more, and he also developed a bit more of a killer instinct in 2008. He pitched a bit more inside and backed batters off of the plate. His three-pitch arsenal, all of which can be plus pitches on any given day, should make him more of a strikeout pitcher than he has been so far in his career. Being a bit more aggressive in expanding the zone instead of peppering it with strikes would go a long way towards tapping his vast potential.

Projection. Nova's expansive repertoire, ability to throw strikes, maintain his velocity deep into games, and pitch to contact allows him to be a bulldog of sorts and a true innings-eater. Making the jump from A-ball to the big leagues, however, Nova will mostly likely transition to the bullpen short-term. There he could see a velocity spike and the new role could be just what the doctor ordered to force him to be more aggressive in his approach. He has back-end of the bullpen type of stuff as a possible setup man, but his long-term value is better suited as that of a middle-of-the-rotation starter. His stuff, however, does give him the potential to have a bigger impact on a big league rotation down the road..

ETA. 2009. We originally slated Nova to reach the big leagues in 2010 because he realistically could use more full year of minor league seasoning. However, now that he'll have his big league opportunity with the Padres next spring, his stuff and ability to throw strikes are too good for him not to stick in a relief role. Unlike Mike Gardner - selected by the Padres in the Rule 5 Draft last year and sent back to the Yankees - it seems unlikely Nova will be going back to the Yankees.

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