Scouting Yankees Prospect #15: Ivan Nova

The Yankees signed right-handed pitcher Ivan Nova out of the Dominican Republic back in 2004 and he had a solid U.S. debut with the Gulf Coast League Yankees in 2006. Despite having some of the best stuff inside the organization, he struggled in his first taste of the long-season leagues this past season and learning how to pitch remains his development mantra.

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

"I felt very good about the stuff I had this year," Nova said of his 2007 campaign through the help of Manny Barreda translating. "Even though my numbers weren't very good, I worked on it. I didn't go into the season focusing on strikeouts. I just wanted to work on my pitches and get quick outs."

Going just 6-8 with with a 4.98 ERA for the Charleston Riverdogs, and allowing 121 hits in roughly 99 innings and striking out just 54 batters, disguises the fact that the 6-foot-4 hurler already has three big league pitches.

"Nova throws too many strikes," Yankees pitching coordinator Nardi Contreras opined. "Nova attacks the zone and stays within the zone too much. Nova has a plus fastball, he has a plus curveball, and he has a plus changeup. He throws them too often in the middle of the plate. He's learning how to pitch with his pitches, to expand the zone, to pitch inside, to knock people back...pitchability.

"What he does is throws strike, strike, strike, strike, strike, and he doesn't worry about strikeouts right now. He just throws strikes, and that's not bad. It's not bad, he's just going to learn how to setup hitters, how to expand zones, and use the outer-third, things that he's not doing right now."

Carlos Reyes, Nova's pitching coach in Charleston last season, takes his strike-throwing ability even further. He believes that while his ability to be around the plate actually was a hindrance of sorts in the South Atlantic League, he insists it will be a big advantage for him as he moves up.

"When you've got strike throwers, you hear you throw too many strikes," said Reyes. "To me that's not a bad thing at all. I want to see too many strikes, because a lot of times as you move up, thing change. Here [the South Atlantic League] there are a lot of free-swingers. Guy hack here. So for a guy who throws a lot of strikes, it's not a good league for him.

"I don't want him to change. At the next level, you're going to want to throw strikes. These guys [at the higher levels] are going to take more. At this level, there's a lot of free-swingers and they swing early. So I don't think it's a bad thing."

Averaging a ridiculous 93 MPH with his fastball in 2007, and boasting one of the better changeups around, if there was one knock on his stuff this past season it was the inconsistency with his curveball.

"That's what I'm primarily working on," Nova admitted, often times leaving his plus curveball too high in the zone. "I'm working on my arm action. When I was throwing it earlier in the year, I was throwing it from the three-quarter slot. I was dropping my arm a little bit and now we're working on raising my arm up and throwing the curveball from the higher slot."

While Nova's critics can't seem to overlook the very pedestrian-like numbers he posted in 2007, scouts and team officials alike continue to caution the doubters, pointing out that that the stuff is already there to be an elite pitching prospect.

"He didn't have a very successful season," added Contreras, "but the thing that Nova continued to do was throw strikes. He's [working] to make sure his strikes are lower at the knees and that he expands the zone. These are things that he will continue to learn.

"His stuff is awesome, I mean awesome. His top fastball is an above average fastball and he's up there with some of the higher-end pitchers we have."

"He's 20 years old, that's it in a nutshell for me. Stuff-wise, he's there," Reyes concurred. "He's just learning how to repeat it. With any pitcher, when they're on top of the world, it's easy to pitch. When you have some struggles, it's hard to bounce back.

"He's learning and he's only going to get better, obviously. I still believe that if he stays healthy, everything's on track. He's going to win a lot of games in the big leagues."

Year

Team

W-L

IP

H

BB

SO

ERA

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, one who has seen his fastball average in the mid-to-upper 80's when he first signed to comfortably sitting in the 91-94 MPH range a year ago, Nova saw a bit bigger spike in velocity and averaged 93 MPH with his fastball in 2007. He still only tops out around 95 MPH and won't get much higher than that on the gun at the current time, but he has very good command of his fastball and can locate it at will. He also throws his fastball with such an ease of motion that it does tend to sneak up on batters a bit.

Other Pitches. When he's going right Nova has both a plus changeup and a plus curveball that he can command. The problem he ran into this past season was experiencing some inconsistencies with both pitches however, throwing his changeup a bit too hard earlier in the season and then being unable to throw his curveball from a consistent arm-slot later in the year. He gets incredible movement with both pitches but he has struggled throwing both consistently in the lower-half of the strike zone and both served as contact pitches too often in 2007.

Pitching. Nova, despite having three plus big league pitches, pitches too complacently on the mound. Lacking the killer instinct at times, he is too content pitching to contact and allowing his defense to work behind him. While that could be a huge plus for him as the defense behind him will surely get better as he moves up the minor league ladder, it is a bit of a detriment at the lower minor league levels. He has the stuff to pile up strikeouts and team officials are hoping his very mediocre season numbers-wise last season serves as a wake-up call for him to show more swing-and-miss stuff. He still needs to learn to how expand the strike zone as well, nibble a bit more on the outside corners rather than having the faith to throw it right down the middle. Aggressively peppering the zone with strikes, the Yankees are hoping he uses that same aggressiveness to pitch more inside, learn to setup batters better with his pitch sequence, and use his height more to his advantage and pitch down more in the zone.

Projection. Numbers aside, it is much easier to teach somebody how to pitch than it is to develop stuff and in that regard Nova is already head-and-shoulders above his competition. His effortless delivery and natural strength, not to mention his ability to pitch to contact, allow him to be quite the innings-eater that would be perfect in the middle of a starting big league rotation. His stuff however is special enough that if he were to make the necessary adjustments - expand the zone, setup batters better, pitch more inside and in the lower-half, and develop more of a killer instinct - he could develop into something more special.

ETA. 2010. Nova's numbers were ugly enough that he could repeat the South Atlantic League level once again in 2008, but the problem is his stuff is ready to move up now. If can break Spring Training with the Tampa Yankees he could be big league ready within two calendar years.

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\r\n \r\n\r\nVital Statistics:
\r\nName: Ivan Nova
\r\nPosition: Starting Pitcher
\r\nDOB: January 12, 1987
\r\nHeight: 6'4\"
\r\nWeight: 210
\r\nBats: Right
\r\nThrows: Right
\r\n
\r\n\"I felt very good about the stuff I had this year,\" Nova said of his 2007 campaign through the help of Manny Barreda translating. \"Even though my numbers weren't very good, I worked on it. I didn't go into the season focusing on strikeouts. I just wanted to work on my pitches and get quick outs.\"
\r\n
\r\nGoing just 6-8 with with a 4.98 ERA for the Charleston Riverdogs, and allowing 121 hits in roughly 99 innings and striking out just 54 batters, disguises the fact that the 6-foot-4 hurler already has three big league pitches.
\r\n
\r\n\"Nova throws too many strikes,\" Yankees pitching coordinator Nardi Contreras opined. \"Nova attacks the zone and stays within the zone too much. Nova has a plus fastball, he has a plus curveball, and he has a plus changeup. He throws them too often in the middle of the plate. He's learning how to pitch with his pitches, to expand the zone, to pitch inside, to knock people back...pitchability.
\r\n
\r\n\"What he does is throws strike, strike, strike, strike, strike, and he doesn't worry about strikeouts right now. He just throws strikes, and that's not bad. It's not bad, he's just going to learn how to setup hitters, how to expand zones, and use the outer-third, things that he's not doing right now.\"
\r\n
\r\nCarlos Reyes, Nova's pitching coach in Charleston last season, takes his strike-throwing ability even further. He believes that while his ability to be around the plate actually was a hindrance of sorts in the South Atlantic League, he insists it will be a big advantage for him as he moves up.
\r\n
\r\n\"When you've got strike throwers, you hear you throw too many strikes,\" said Reyes. \"To me that's not a bad thing at all. I want to see too many strikes, because a lot of times as you move up, thing change. Here [the South Atlantic League] there are a lot of free-swingers. Guy hack here. So for a guy who throws a lot of strikes, it's not a good league for him.
\r\n
\r\n\"I don't want him to change. At the next level, you're going to want to throw strikes. These guys [at the higher levels] are going to take more. At this level, there's a lot of free-swingers and they swing early. So I don't think it's a bad thing.\"
\r\n
\r\nAveraging a ridiculous 93 MPH with his fastball in 2007, and boasting one of the better changeups around, if there was one knock on his stuff this past season it was the inconsistency with his curveball.
\r\n
\r\n\"That's what I'm primarily working on,\" Nova admitted, often times leaving his plus curveball too high in the zone. \"I'm working on my arm action. When I was throwing it earlier in the year, I was throwing it from the three-quarter slot. I was dropping my arm a little bit and now we're working on raising my arm up and throwing the curveball from the higher slot.\"
\r\n
\r\nWhile Nova's critics can't seem to overlook the very pedestrian-like numbers he posted in 2007, scouts and team officials alike continue to caution the doubters, pointing out that that the stuff is already there to be an elite pitching prospect.
\r\n
\r\n\"He didn't have a very successful season,\" added Contreras, \"but the thing that Nova continued to do was throw strikes. He's [working] to make sure his strikes are lower at the knees and that he expands the zone. These are things that he will continue to learn.
\r\n
\r\n\"His stuff is awesome, I mean awesome. His top fastball is an above average fastball and he's up there with some of the higher-end pitchers we have.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"He's 20 years old, that's it in a nutshell for me. Stuff-wise, he's there,\" Reyes concurred. \"He's just learning how to repeat it. With any pitcher, when they're on top of the world, it's easy to pitch. When you have some struggles, it's hard to bounce back.
\r\n
\r\n\"He's learning and he's only going to get better, obviously. I still believe that if he stays healthy, everything's on track. He's going to win a lot of games in the big leagues.\"
\r\n
\r\n\r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n
\r\n

\r\n Year

\r\n

\r\n Team

\r\n

\r\n W-L

\r\n

\r\n IP

\r\n

\r\n H

\r\n

\r\n BB

\r\n

\r\n SO

\r\n

\r\n ERA

\r\n

\r\n 2007

\r\n

\r\n Charleston

\r\n

\r\n 6-8

\r\n

\r\n 99.1

\r\n

\r\n 121

\r\n

\r\n 31

\r\n

\r\n 54

\r\n

\r\n 4.98

\r\n

\r\n 2006

\r\n

\r\n Gulf Coast

\r\n

\r\n 3-0

\r\n

\r\n 43.0

\r\n

\r\n 36

\r\n

7

\r\n

\r\n 36

\r\n

\r\n 2.72

\r\n

\r\n 2005

\r\n

\r\n DSL

\r\n

\r\n 0-1

\r\n

\r\n 39.1

\r\n

\r\n 29

\r\n

\r\n 11

\r\n

\r\n 38

\r\n

\r\n 2.29


\r\n
\r\nRepertoire. Fastball, Curveball, Changeup.
\r\n
\r\nFastball. Signed as a projection guy, one who has seen his fastball average in the mid-to-upper 80's when he first signed to comfortably sitting in the 91-94 MPH range a year ago, Nova saw a bit bigger spike in velocity and averaged 93 MPH with his fastball in 2007. He still only tops out around 95 MPH and won't get much higher than that on the gun at the current time, but he has very good command of his fastball and can locate it at will. He also throws his fastball with such an ease of motion that it does tend to sneak up on batters a bit.
\r\n
\r\nOther Pitches. When he's going right Nova has both a plus changeup and a plus curveball that he can command. The problem he ran into this past season was experiencing some inconsistencies with both pitches however, throwing his changeup a bit too hard earlier in the season and then being unable to throw his curveball from a consistent arm-slot later in the year. He gets incredible movement with both pitches but he has struggled throwing both consistently in the lower-half of the strike zone and both served as contact pitches too often in 2007.
\r\n
\r\nPitching. Nova, despite having three plus big league pitches, pitches too complacently on the mound. Lacking the killer instinct at times, he is too content pitching to contact and allowing his defense to work behind him. While that could be a huge plus for him as the defense behind him will surely get better as he moves up the minor league ladder, it is a bit of a detriment at the lower minor league levels. He has the stuff to pile up strikeouts and team officials are hoping his very mediocre season numbers-wise last season serves as a wake-up call for him to show more swing-and-miss stuff. He still needs to learn to how expand the strike zone as well, nibble a bit more on the outside corners rather than having the faith to throw it right down the middle. Aggressively peppering the zone with strikes, the Yankees are hoping he uses that same aggressiveness to pitch more inside, learn to setup batters better with his pitch sequence, and use his height more to his advantage and pitch down more in the zone.
\r\n
\r\nProjection. Numbers aside, it is much easier to teach somebody how to pitch than it is to develop stuff and in that regard Nova is already head-and-shoulders above his competition. His effortless delivery and natural strength, not to mention his ability to pitch to contact, allow him to be quite the innings-eater that would be perfect in the middle of a starting big league rotation. His stuff however is special enough that if he were to make the necessary adjustments - expand the zone, setup batters better, pitch more inside and in the lower-half, and develop more of a killer instinct - he could develop into something more special.
\r\n
\r\nETA. 2010. Nova's numbers were ugly enough that he could repeat the South Atlantic League level once again in 2008, but the problem is his stuff is ready to move up now. If can break Spring Training with the Tampa Yankees he could be big league ready within two calendar years.
\r\n
\r\n

\r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n\r\n
\r\n

Are you a monthly or 3-month subscriber to PinstripesPlus.com? Why not get two months free AND get 4 issues of our PinstripesPlus Magazine, including our special Yankees Prospects Guide, included by becoming an annual subscriber? Upgrade today to get the most out of your subscription.

\r\n

\r\n

Become an annual subscriber today!

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