If you’re a Yankees fan, then you know who Ivan Nova is.

If you’re not a Yankees fan, then here’s a little background information on the man who will likely assume the No. 5 spot in the rotation for the 2011 season.

Nova, 24, is listed at 6’4″ and 210 pounds. The big right-hander was born on January 12, 1987 in San Cristobal, Dominican Republic.

Nova was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Yankees in 2004 out of the Dominican Republic. After being exposed to the Rule 5 draft in December 2008, he was selected by the Padres. He was returned to the Yankees at the end of the 2009 spring training. To protect him from future Rule 5 drafts, the Yankees placed him on the 40-man roster.

To say that he’s been an inconsistent minor leaguer would be quite an understatement. In 2006, as a 19-year old, he pitched to a 3-0 record in the Gulf Coast League. He had a 2.72 ERA with 36 strikeouts and just seven walks in 43 innings.

Next season, for Single-A Charleston, he went 6-8 with a 4.98 ERA. In 99.1 innings he struck out just 54 with a very high 31 walks.

In 2008, for Single-A+ Tampa, Nova pitched to an 8-13 record with a 4.36 ERA. He threw a career high 148.2 innings and racked up 109 strikeouts. He also walked 46 batters.

Nova split the 2009 season between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He went 5-4 with Trenton with a 2.36 ERA while striking out 47 and walking 31. For Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Nova was not nearly as effective. He turned in a 1-4 record with a 5.10 ERA.

Last season, Nova saw time in the majors. In 10 games (seven starts), Nova went 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA in 42 innings. He struck out 26 and walked 17.

Ivan Nova has been considered to have some of the best stuff in the Yankees farm system. He throws a low-90’s fastball that has been reported to touch 94 on occasion. He also throws a two-seam/sinker that he has great command of. When down in the zone, he can induce many ground balls.

His pitches are sneaky fast. He has a very relaxed, calm delivery that allows him to maintain his velocity deep into games.

His curveball and changeup are his best pitches. His big breaking curveball is his strikeout pitch, and he uses the changeup early in counts to induce ground balls.

Probably his best trait, though, is his composure. He won’t lose a game by getting worked up over a bad call or after allowing a few base hits in a row. He’ll continue to fight and continue to get outs.

The only criticism of Nova’s game is that he’s not aggressive enough. Often with two strikes, he continues to pitch to contact when he has the stuff to strike a batter out. He avoids pitching inside as well, which sometimes affects his ability to put batters away.

Nova is the smart choice for the final spot in the Yankees rotation. If his scouting report is accurate, then I predict that he could win 12 games for the Yankees with an ERA around 4.00. If he can give the Yankees close to 150 innings, it’ll be a successful season for Nova.

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