The New York Yankees have spent big money on free-agents this offseason and depending on what happens with Masahiro Tanaka, they might not be done. However, now that the Yankees’ lineup is once again filled with All-Stars, the star-studded team will unknowingly rely on their young, unpredictable righty, Ivan Nova.
The Yankees starting rotation currently comprises only three pitchers with CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Nova. Sabathia and Kuroda struggled tremendously last season but both are not considered great liabilities to the Yankees because they veteran MLB pitchers. Nova on the other hand, is not an established big-league pitcher, but he can be.
Nova had a solid rookie campaign in 2011 that finished with him earning Rookie-of-the-Year votes. He recorded a 3.70 ERA with 98 strikeouts in 27 starts. His 2012 season proved to be a quintessential case of the sophomore slump as Nova posted a dismal 5.02 ERA while giving up 28 home runs in just as many games. Most recently, Nova produced his best season yet with a 3.10 ERA in 23 games after beginning the season poorly and fighting through injury.
Two words for Nova’s career thus far: wildly inconsistent. However, 2014 can be the year Nova can prove to everyone he belongs in the big show.
The Yankees know what they are getting from all of their pitchers, except Nova. The team is confident that Sabathia will rebound from the worst season of his career and also that Kuroda will be able to produce like he did in the first half of 2013. If Nova is able to repeat what he did last year, the criticisms of 2012 will fade and everyone can just chalk it up to a sophomore slump. Regardless if the Yankees are able to land Tanaka, a rotation with Sabathia, Kuroda and a consistent Nova is formidable.
Unless something completely unexpected happens, the Yankees aren’t going after any of the big free-agent pitchers like Matt Garza, Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez. Yet another reason Nova has to step up. Barring other moves such as Tanaka or perhaps a Paul Maholm, Nova is going to be the number three guy, perhaps even number two. Nova’s performance could have a substantial impact on the Yankees’ playoff chances.
This upcoming season could also be indicative if the Yankees want to make long-term plans with Nova. Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain both left the Bronx this offseason and it seems as if the Yankees front office is beginning to part with former hyped prospects, respectively so. Four seasons in the MLB will be more than enough evidence for the Yankees to make contractual decisions.
Nova has the potential to be the most important player for the Yankees by bolstering the criticized starting rotation, discrediting arguments about the Yanks minor league system and silencing all of his doubters, which includes many New Yorkers. Look for Nova to leave everything he’s got on the field in 2014.