#22 - Roberto Novoa

When the Tigers shipped away 1B Randall Simon last offseason, they received a trio of prospects in return. Much has been made of the lone position player they received, 3B Kody Kirkland, has he dominated in short season A-ball at Oneonta in 2003. However, little mention is being given to another player the Tigers received in the trade, RHP Roberto Novoa.

Roberto Novoa signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates as an undrafted free agent in July of 1999. He then spent three years in the Pittsburgh organization, the final 2 at the Pirates 2 A-ball clubs, Hickory and Williamsport. He was a Player Named Later in the trade for Simon, and had a very solid year for the Tigers at high-A Lakeland in 2003. He was added to the Tigers 40-man Roster this offseason.

Novoa spent most of 2003 in Lakeland's starting rotation, although he did make a few relief appearances (which very well may be where his future lies). He compiled a 4-5 record with a 3.73 ERA. However, his (71:25) K:BB ratio is his most impressive statistic, which is why many project a possible switch to relief.

It is possible that Novoa will remain a starter (if for no other reason than to continue getting innings), but a move to the bullpen is probably in the works. The Tigers added Novoa to the 40-man roster for fear that he might be selected in the Rule-5 draft this past Winter, indicative of the fact that he might have the ability to pitch relief in the majors right now.

Novoa is an extremely hard thrower, topping out at 98 MPH (but mostly sitting in the 94-96 MPH range). He also possesses a very good slider, and a serviceable change-up. Novoa has decent control and doesn't have a problem keeping the ball in and around the strike zone, more so his biggest problem is specific location in the strike zone, as he far too often can't hit a spot (a big problem for a pitcher whose top weapon is a speedy, straight fastball.

Novoa will probably start the year at AA-Erie, but who knows if he'll be in the rotation or make the move to the bullpen. Between his heat and slider, he has excellent makeup to become a late-innings reliever, but the Tigers might want to see him work more with his change-up and continue to get innings.

Novoa is already an older prospect at 24, so he'll be expected to move rather quickly. A solid year for the Seawolves this season and he could be looking at a chance in Detroit in 2005. He was inconsistent with the Pirates, so there's no guarantee he'll become a reliable reliever, but this flame thrower has a good chance to find himself pitching in the majors at some point in the next couple of years.

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