Two names that Yankee fans could be finding themselves increasingly familiar with this coming season are Ivan Nova and Hector Noesi. The Yankee faithful bore witness to the former’s indoctrination to The Show last fall in the form of seven so-so starts that typically featured Nova mostly shutting the opposing team down the first two times through the order (.554 OPS the first time through the order and .713 the second time through) before pretty much imploding around the time he faced his 19th hitter and beyond (opponents throttled Nova to the tune of an appalling .400/.531(!)/.480 triple slash the third time through the order). As of now, Nova is expected to occupy the 4th or 5th starter’s slot (hopefully the latter) when the season begins, but he’ll also likely have some competition this spring.
Names like Adam Warren and David Phelps have been thrown around a lot this offseason, although from what I’ve read it sounds like Noesi may be next in the pecking order with regards to getting a shot to show what he has at the Major League level.
Here’s a look at what Nova and Noesi have done thus far in their young careers:
The biggest plus in Noesi’s game is that he apparently doesn’t walk anybody. Noesi has also racked up his share of strikeouts during his time on the farm. According to Mike Axisa’s prospect profile, Noesi’s best pitches are his fastball and changeup (be great to see a pitcher from the Yankee system finally come up and throw a halfway decent change after seeing the Yankee offense get stymied by offspeed slop time and time again), while Sean at TYU also notes Noesi’s curveball. Barring an outrageous spring, Noesi will almost certainly start the year back in AAA, but if he continues to pitch well we may see him in the Bronx in the ‘pen — or possibly even as a spot starter — sometime this summer.
As for Nova, E.J. Fagan has a great scouting report here, and concludes that if Nova can get through six innings a game (though this remains a big if, at least for me) and can put up an ERA between 4.40 and 4.70 he’d be valuable in the back end of the rotation. I mostly agree, although if Nova can’t keep his ERA under 4.50 in the Majors I’d have to think the Yankees will try to find someone in the system who can. TYU’s Steve S. also recently took an informative look at Nova, and ponders whether he could potentially reinvent himself as a Chien-Ming Wang-style sinkerballer. That would certainly be a best-case scenario for Nova and the Yankees, and as Steve notes, the vertical break on Nova’s fastball per Fangraphs was +6.7, which compares somewhat favorably to Wang’s 5.4 for his career.
As far as projections go, Bill James sees a 4.61 ERA/4.22 FIP over 80.0 innings for Nova. CAIRO is a good deal harsher on Nova, projecting a 5.21 ERA/5.03 FIP over 116 innings, worth 0.5 WAR. And Oliver is decidedly bullish on Nova, projecting a 4.25 ERA over 166 innings (5.9 K/9, 3.4 BB/9), worth 2.2 WAR. I think we’d all do cartwheels if Nova managed to break the 2.0 WAR barrier.
CAIRO is slightly less tough on Noesi, with a 5.08 ERA/4.91 FIP in 80 innings worth 0.4 WAR, while Oliver thinks Noesi will pitch to the same exact ERA as Nova but do so in less innings (113) and get there in a slightly different fashion (7.2 K/9, 1.8 BB/9), in a season worth 1.5 WAR.
Nova clearly has a jump on Noesi as far as experience goes, but Noesi’s actually posted stronger peripherals than Nova at A+, AA and AAA, albeit in considerably smaller sample sizes. Still, Noesi’s high strikeout totals and significantly lower walk rates (since graduating from Rookie ball Nova has never posted a BB/9 less than 2.78, and that was in high A, while Noesi hasn’t had a BB/9 above 2.00 since graduating from low A) could bode well for Hector as he tries to establish himself as a Major League pitcher.
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