Friday, August 12, 2016

Ivan Nova - Bucs Betting On A Veteran Down the Stretch

Iván Manuel Nova Guance, 29, was raised in San Cristóbal, Dominican Republic. He started youth baseball as a SS/OF with no great success, tho he had a rifle arm. He was flipped to pitching as he grew (he's now 6'5", 235 lbs), and that worked out a whole lot better.

The Yankees signed Nova as a free agent in 2004 for $80K. After some time in the Bronx Bomber's Dominican Academy, he came stateside in 2006 to work in the GCL. Though still a prospect, he had a couple of rough years in the lower levels. He didn't make the 40-man roster after the 2008 season, and the Padres claimed him during the Rule 5 draft but sent him back to NY after camp. The Yanks were glad they did.

Ivan Nova (Pirate promo)

Nova posted a 6–8, 3.68 mark between AA and AAA that season. He landed a spot on the 40-man roster by pitching well in the AAA playoffs after a bumpy beginning following his promotion. Ivan was strong in the Dominican Winter League and followed it up with a hot start at Scranton Wilkes-Barre. Nova didn't make the club out of camp, but did debut with the Yankees in 2010. He yo-yoed back and forth between the show and the farm, as many pups with options are. We know all about that in Pittsburgh.

He broke camp in 2011 as a starter, but was sent back down, again as mainly an option issue (he was 8-4, 4.10 at the time) when Bartolo Colón and Phil Hughes came off the DL. He was called back in July and was all that, finishing the campaign 16-4, 3.70. The righty made Baseball America's All-Rookie Team and finished fourth in the AL Rookie of the Year Award vote. But since then, it's been a struggle.

Ivan had a strong 2013 season (9-6, 3.10) but otherwise has hovered at or above the 5.00 ERA mark. Injuries surely played a role. He had rotator cuff irritation in 2012 and TJ surgery in early 2014. This year, he was 7-6, 4.90 with New York.

Nova is primarily a fastball/cutter/curve tosser, with a show-me circle changeup he saves for lefties. His four seamer and cutter come in at about 93 MPH and his 80 MPH curve sports a 12–6 drop with a strong speed seperation. He's not a big whiff or walk guy (7 K, 2 BB per nine) but does have a tendency to give up long balls, especially this year (1.81 per game).

The Bucs are betting Ivan can help carry them through the dog days (photo Pgh Pirates)

He had less than 100 IP with NY, so he should be strong for the finish. Nova's also a 51% ground ball guy during his career, and he's at 54% this year. He 4.90 ERA is unsightly, but both his SIERA (3.98) and FIP (4.40) are better. On the other side of the pillow, he is a pure rental, hitting free agency at the end of the year. We have yet to see who the two PTBNL are, but Yankee sources say they're pretty decent prospects.

So in the case of Nova, the FO seems all-in for 2016. The Pirates deadline housecleaning involved sweeping Juan Nicasio, Frankie, Jon Niese and Jeff Locke from the rotation. They had in-house replacements on hand with Ryan Vogelsong, Jameson Taillon and Chad Kuhl. After pricing the big guns on the market, they came back to Ivan, who they were rumored to be on early, to fill the final slot, bypassing the Indy pipeline for an experienced hand.

The FO's bet is that veteran guys who have been there and done that give them better competitive odds down the stretch than a rotation staffed by young 'uns, who we're guessing will pop up by the boatload in September. The next 50 games will show if that theory holds water.

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