Pirates Bring Back Ivan Nova: 2017 Fantasy Sleeper

The Pirates added an important piece to their rotation by signing Ivan Nova. What can you expect from him for a full season in black and yellow?

One day after not signing a single player, the Pirates added two important pieces to their pitching staff. I talked about the first here. The second was announced Thursday morning when the team agreed to sign Ivan Nova to a three-year deal. He had a good second half with the team in 2016. Will things be different after a full season?

Nova underwent Tommy John surgery four games into his 2014 season. He wasn’t the same when he returned the following year. In 17 starts, he had a 5.07 ERA, 1.404 WHIP and 6-11 record. Things didn’t get better in 2016.

In the first half with the New York Yankees, he had a 4.90 ERA, 1.356 WHIP and 7-6 record. His K/9 and BB/9 went in the wrong directions, 6.9 and 2.3, respectively. As the Yankees went the rebuilding route, Nova was one of the pieces to go.

He landed with the Pirates and had a bit of a revival. From August 1 on, Nova had a 3.06 ERA, 1.098 WHIP and 5-2 record. He had a 7.2 K/9 and an amazing 0.4 BB/9, 52:3 K:BB ratio.

The latter isn’t likely to continue into next season, but it’s nice to see.

The move to a less hitter-friendly park in PNC Park helps Nova’s value. He allowed 94 home runs in his five-plus seasons with the Yankees, 48 of them leaving Yankee Stadium.

Nova had a career-best 53.6% grounder rate over his 162 combined innings for both teams in 2016. If he can limit the long ball, Nova could see another season of success as a member of the Pirates.

The offenses in the National League Central shouldn’t scare you from drafting Nova.  The Cincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Brewers ranked in the bottom half for runs scored last season. The Reds, Brewers and Cubs ranked 13th or worse in home runs.

The only downside is that the Pirates offense wasn’t too great either. They were 26th in homers, 13th in runs and 10th in strikeouts. They were ranked highly in average and on-base percentage, 12th and fourth, respectively. You may want to wait if you use wins instead of quality starts.

Nova is listed at the Pirates’ No. 2 starting pitcher, behind Gerrit Cole. If he stays healthy, that can guarantee him 28 to 32 starts. He is one of my sleeper picks for the 2017 season.