Player Background

Signed by the Yankees in 2004, Nova made his professional debut in the Dominican Summer in 2005. With the Gulf Coast League Yankees in 2006, he had a 2.72 ERA with 36 strikeouts and seven walks in 43 innings as a 19-year-old. In 2007, he had a 4.98 ERA in 21 starts with the Charleston Riverdogs in the South Atlantic League. His strikeouts were way down (54), but he allowed just eight home runs in 99 1/3 innings. At High-A the next year, Nova had a 4.36 ERA with 109 strikeouts and only six home runs allowed in 148 2/3 innings with the Tampa Yankees. That winter, Nova was selected by the San Diego Padres in the Rule 5 Draft, but he was returned to the Yankees organization at the end of spring training in 2009 after he allowed 11 runs in 8 2/3 innings. Nova split the 2009 season between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre and took a big step forward the following year at Triple-A when he had a 2.86 ERA and 115 strikeouts in 145 innings. He was even called up to the majors for seven starts and three relief appearances where he had a 4.50 ERA in 42 innings.

Nova made the Yankees rotation out of spring training in 2011 and established himself as a worm-killer with a 52 percent ground-ball rate. He finished tied for fourth in the American League with 16 wins in 27 starts and was also fourth in the Rookie of the Year voting. Nova started the continuation of Game One of the 2011 ALDS, which had been suspended in the second inning. Nova pitched well in 7 1/3 innings of what was technically relief while earning the win, but suffered the loss in the series’ decisive Game Five in New York when he allowed first-inning home runs to Don Kelly and Delmon Young before leaving with a pulled groin muscle.

Nova saw a major increase in strikeouts the following year in 2012 as he struck out 153 in 170 1/3 innings compared to just 98 strikeouts in 165 and 1/3 innings in 2011. Despite missing significantly more bats in his sophomore season—his strikeout percentage also went from 13 percent to 20 percent—Nova didn’t fare as well on balls in play as his BABIP allowed went up to .331 from .283 and he allowed 28 home runs (compared to 13 in 2011) including 14 home runs in 12 starts at Yankee Stadium. The result was his WHIP jumped up from 1.33 to 1.47 and his ERA ballooned from 3.70 to 5.02. He may have been a bit of a victim of bad luck with that .048 point increase in BABIP, but perhaps that’s bound to happen given that neither Nova’s stuff nor his command are particularly great. He was left off the Yankees playoff roster in favor of a rookie David Phelps and Derek Lowe. Of course, Nova didn’t make it through the season without an injury scare as he spent time on the disabled list in August with rotator-cuff inflammation.

Nova began 2013 in the rotation, but was saddled with a 6.48 ERA after four starts. He hit the disabled list again, this time with triceps inflammation. He returned to the Yankees bullpen for two relief appearances at the end of May before being sent to the minors for a month. Upon returning to the rotation, Nova was like a new man. He was now relying on his sinker as his primary fastball and that helped him produce a career high 53 percent groundball percentage. He also decided to prioritize his curveball over his slider as his top secondary offering. The tweaks worked to perfection as over his last 17 games (16 starts) he had a 2.70 ERA and 90-to-34 K:BB ratio in 116 2/3 innings. He had his first two career shutouts over that stretch.

Nova began the 2014 in the rotation, but he didn’t look anything like the pitcher from the second half of 2013 as his stuff and command weren’t there and his ERA sat at 8.27 after four starts. He had pain in his elbow and opted for Tommy John surgery, ending his season.

What’s Happened So Far in 2015

Nova returned to the Yankees rotation in June and had a 3.10 ERA in his first seven starts, but has since slowed down, as he has an ERA of 6.58 and 17-to-10 K:BB in his last five starts. He’s failed to last more than 5 1/3 innings in six of his 12 starts this year, but he’s also had his second-best DRA season with a 3.81 mark. Still, the decision the Yankees made to bounce Adam Warren (3.19 ERA, 3.47 DRA) to the bullpen in favor of Nova seems questionable.

What to Expect the Rest of 2015

While Nova has struggled lately and is coming off a long layoff and surgery—not to mention that he hasn’t been piling up the strikeouts this year as he has 42 strikeouts in 68 innings—he’s not completely without fantasy appeal the rest of the way. He’s won five of his starts and is pitching for a team in the playoff race with a good offense. Nova also bounced back somewhat with a quality start against the Red Sox at Fenway Park on Monday night as he went six innings while allowing three runs.











While his rest of the season PECOTA projection isn’t likely to be the difference in your league down the stretch, he still has some value in AL-only leagues the rest of the way.

The Great Beyond

The Yankees are in a bit of an interesting spot with Nova as the right-hander is set for arbitration next year before becoming a free agent in 2016. While Nova has a deep history in pinstripes, a lot of it has seen him injured and simply average with a few good half-seasons mixed in. Given the Yankees starting pitching depth—with Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, Nathan Eovaldi, Luis Severino, Warren, and Bryan Mitchell—it doesn’t seem like the Yankees will be interested in paying arbitration prices for Nova, who could be a trade or even non-tender candidate. General manager Brian Cashman even said before Monday’s game that if CC Sabathia is healthy he would go right back in the starting rotation, possibly replacing Nova. Even if that doesn’t happen, though Sabathia was able to throw a bullpen session with a knee brace on recently, it already seems like Nova’s days in pinstripes might be numbered.

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While the Yanks certainly had no rotation depth going into 2014, I thought at the time that they should have sold high on Nova, because of course with pitchers, youneverknow. In retrospect, that was a potential missed opportunity . . . but what do I know? I thought the Yanks should have held on to Shane Greene . . .

If the Yanks do trade Nova after this season, unless he is spectacular down the stretch, they are selling low, and that stinks, because Nova has more ability than he has shown. For that reason, I have a hard time believing the Yanks would non-tender Nova, even given the up coming 40-man roster crunch.
Warren got a real raw deal.

Not only was he sent to the bullpen but his usage has been pretty much in low leverage situations.

I don't get the fascination with Bryan Mitchell. The last 4 years in the minors he had an ERA above 4.00.

And other than a cup of tea last year he has really showed nothing to suggest he deserves to start ahead of anyone.