Weight: 210 pounds
Current Team: Scranton/Wilkes Barre Yankees (AAA)
Nova, signed out of the Dominican Republic as a free agent in 2004, seems like he has been around the Yankee system forever. A tall righty, Nova has always been considered to have some of the best pure stuff in the pitching-heavy Yankee system. He has a low-90′s 4-seam fastball that reaches 94 with good movement that he uses to record many groundball outs. He has an above-average changeup with plus potential, as well as a curveball that flashes plus at times. Nova’s secondary offerings, while promising, have not developed into major strikeout pitches yet, and he tends to pitch more to contact.
Last Year: Nova had an up-and-down 2008 for Tampa, going 8-13 with a 4.36 ERA, and allowing over a hit per inning. He struck out 109 against 46 walks in 148 2/3 innings, and posted a 1.60 GO/AO ratio. At times he would pitch very well, but on other occasions he was too hittable. His .353 BABIP was fairly high, which could indicate that he was somewhat unlucky, and could have benefitted from better defense behind him.
This Year: Road Trip Nova was taken by the Padres in the Rule V Draft. San Diego tried him out in the bullpen in Spring Training, but Nova was not very successful, and did not make the major league team. As a result, he was returned to the Yankee system. Nova began the season in AA, and was very effective in his first 12 starts. In 72 1/3 AA innings, Nova was 5-4 with a 2.36 ERA, and allowed 65 hits and 31 walks, while striking out 47. The most impressive statistic was his GO/AO ratio, which was 2.47. His strikeout rate was still not that impressive, but the increased groundball rate combined with a more normal BABIP against (.290), allowed Nova to succeed at the AA level. This performance earned Nova a promotion to AAA, where he pitched 5 2/3 innings of 1-hit ball in his Scranton debut. He will likely remain in AAA for the remainder of the season, but could be a September callup if all goes well.
Outlook: Nova is definitely a prospect on the rise, who finally seems to be improving his performance to match his impressive stuff. He is very similar to Zach McAllister, as a guy who records a lot of groundaball outs and does not strike many batters out. While he does not have McAllister’s control, Nova probably has a higher ceiling because his secondary offerings are stronger, and he gets more groundball outs than Zach does. Nova probably has a #3 ceiling if his secondary offerings come together and his control improves, but at this juncture he allows too many baserunners without striking many guys out to be considered a frontline guy. Nonetheless, he is another useful prospect to have in the starting mix, and could also be useful as trade bait.
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