Jul 10, 2013; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Ivan Nova (47) pitches against the Kansas City Royals during the first inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

Fantasy Baseball: Ranking the Yankees - No. 10, SP Ivan Nova

The popularity of fantasy baseball is growing every year.  Whether you are a fantasy baseball veteran in multiple leagues every year, someone who plays casually or completely new to the game, there is a lot to know before creating your fantasy squad.

The New York Yankees often boast plenty of fantasy options, and this year is no different after some huge additions this winter. You can look at the value of a player on the field and how they help the Yankees a certain way, but should take a different approach when analyzing their fantasy value.

Fantasy players should take into account the size of their league, position eligibility, league scoring settings, position scarcity, injury history, playing time, ballpark and many other factors when determining whether a player is a prudent pick and when (or how much to spend) to draft them. As always, keep in mind who you are drafting with. If you are in a league with a ton of Yankee fans, you’re probably going to have to overpay for Yankee players.

When taking a look at the top Yankees, there are a few stark differences in fantasy values with some. A few years ago, guys like C.C. Sabathia and Carlos Beltran were some of the first few players taken in drafts. Now the two veterans can be had for cheaper, but can still provide plenty of value. Some players are more valuable than they ever have been thanks to new roles on the team, and some are making their debuts on the fantasy scene.

Over the next two weeks we’ll take a look at the top 10 most valuable Yankees in fantasy baseball. Counting down from 10 to 1, we’ll take an in-depth look at each player, what they can provide this year and when you should add them to your team.

We start with the 10th most valuable Yankee in fantasy baseball:

Ivan Nova, SP (Auction Price – $1) 

You may have dabbled with Nova on your fantasy team in the past. If you have, you’ve gotten mixed results.

It’s surprisingly already been four seasons since Nova made his debut with the Yankees in 2010. He pitched just 42 innings that year but showed some promise as a ground ball pitcher. Nova followed up with a very good season in 2011 in which he won 16 games with a 3.70 ERA, though he still did not provide enough strikeouts for fantasy owners.  The next year he took a step back. He actually finally started to record some strikeouts and had a career-high 8.08 K/9 rate, but he struggled with the long ball (1.48 HR/9, 16 percent HR/FB ratio) and finished the year with an ERA north of five.

Heading into last year he wasn’t a fantasy target and struggled mightily early on before suffering a triceps injury at the end of April. It looked as though not only was Nova’s fantasy value gone, he may no longer even be a viable option for the Yankees’ thin rotation. But Nova fought back and not only returned to the club, he became the team’s most reliable starter. In 73.1 innings in July and August, Nova gave up just 17 earned runs and 61 hits while striking out 60, going 6-2 for the team during that span. On the year, he finished with a respectable 7.49 K/9 and coupled that with a rebound in ground ball percentage, which shot back up to a career-high 53.5 percent. His xFIP (expected fielding independent pitching) was a career-best 3.67, which is considered above average.

Now at 27, Nova is cemented into the team’s rotation and is a huge key for the Yankees. With a job locked up coming off a career year, Nova has plenty of fantasy potential this season. It doesn’t look like he’ll ever be a huge strikeout guy, which limits his fantasy upside, but he is serviceable in that category and strikes hitters out at a league average rate. Last season Nova won just nine games and suffered from a severe lack of run support. With the Yankees’ revamped offense, that shouldn’t be a problem anymore and he could see a number similar to his 2011 win total of 16.

Nova made an adjustment to his arsenal in 2013 and threw his four-seam fastball less than ever (36.9 percent) and featured a two-seam fastball, throwing that pitch 23.4 percent of the time (he had never thrown it more than seven percent of the time). He also stopped dabbling with a slider, a pitch he used the most in his worst season in the bigs in 2012 and a likely reason for his home run struggles that year. The two-seam fastball was his most effective pitch last year and helped lead to his fantastic ground ball rate and career-high SwStr% (swinging strike percentage) of 9.3.

With more confidence in his arsenal and a better offense and defense behind him as he enters his prime at age 27, there’s a lot to like about Nova. And the best part is, he can be had for cheap. In auction leagues you can likely grab him for just a dollar. In 10-team leagues he may not even be drafted and can likely be had in the final round. In 12-teamers or larger you can probably nab him in the late teens (Round 17 or 18). Don’t sleep on a potential breakout campaign with very little risk involved.

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