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Ivan Nova: Fantasy Baseball Prospect 2011

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Ivan Nova is one of many MLB prospects who may go from relative unknown to league wide name in 2011.

Before the Yanks failed to land a big name free agent pitcher in the offseason, Nova was nothing more than a second-tier 24-year old prospect in their farm system. He had a strong 2010 campaign in the minors, going 12-3 with a 2.86 ERA and 115 strikeouts in 145 innings. That productivity only led to 7 unimpressive Major League starts last season.

Now that the Yankees are forced to complete their 2011 rotation from within, Nova has taken full advantage of the opportunity he’s been given during Spring Training. Following six innings of no hit ball on Wednesday against Baltimore’s lineup of mostly Major League talent, Nova looks like a lock to take the no. 4 slot in the Yankees 2011 rotation.

On the Spring through 3/19, Nova is 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA and 7 strikeouts in 14 innings of work. Nova throws four pitches: a 4-seamer and a sinking 2-seamer in the 90′s, a circle change in the mid 80′s, and a curve ball in the upper 70′s. He also has a great ground ball percentage, which should bode well for him in the bandbox that is New Yankee Stadium. According to several scouting reports, the guy has been destined to find himself as a back of the rotation MLB starter… Nova just happens to be lucky enough to fulfill that potential while also pitching for the Yankees.

Assuming Nova makes the Yanks rotation as a no. 4 starter, there’s no question he has the potential to make for one hell of fantasy baseball sleeper in 2011. There’s no question that the Yankees are going to score a lot of runs this season. One of our favorite fantasy baseball tips for mixed league owners is to select pitchers you know will win games if all other stats are equal. This strategy places extra fantasy value on a pitcher who throws no. 4 in the rotation for a team like the Yankees, Phillies, Twins or Giants than for a pitcher higher in the rotation for a less successful team like the Pirates or Nationals.

Because of his expected run support and favorable pitching matchups, fantasy owners in AL-only leagues can safely draft Nova in the late rounds to round out their rotation. In mixed formats, Nova could make a great late or last round draft pick for a bench slot or as a spot starter in leagues with daily lineup changes.

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