Freudis Nova Commits To Getting Better
The sight stopped some Astros personnel in their tracks. Freudis Nova arrived to big league spring training a new—and bigger—man.
The 21-year-old shortstop has gained 31 pounds since 2019, bulking up in an effort to further a minor league career that has suffered somewhat.
Once thought of as the organization’s best position player prospect, Nova’s stock taken a hit. A last look at him in affiliated baseball did not leave a great impression. Nova hit .259/.301/.369 for Low-A Quad Cities in 2019. He hit three home runs and made 14 errors at shortstop and third base.
Still, the Astros added Nova to their 40-man roster last November to protect him from Rule 5 draft selection. Jeremy Peña, another shortstop, surpassed him as the team’s top position player prospect.
The lack of a minor league season in 2020 did Nova no favors. An uneven showing at instructional league affected some outside views. One Astros coach still views him favorably.
“He reminds me a little bit of Hanley (Ramirez), when I had Hanley and he was 20-21 years old,” Astros bench coach Joe Espada said. “He’s got a lot of similarities in how he approaches the game.”
Espada worked in the Marlins organization immediately after his retirement. He was promoted to the major league staff in 2010—the last of Ramirez’s three straight all-star seasons. Ramirez won National League Rookie of the Year honors as a 22-year-old before embarking on a 15-year big league career.
“I have shared some of my thoughts of what I saw from Hanley, because (Nova's) body kind of works the same way,” Espada said. “So far, he’s been really good with his attitude and how he works. He listens to the coaches, wants information. It’s been very encouraging.”
Nova will likely start the season at High-A Asheville. His weight gain may allow him to tap into some power that’s been absent throughout his career. The Astros plan to hit him ground balls at both shortstop and third base during spring training.
— After a forearm strain prevented him from making his major league debut in 2020, Forrest Whitley said his arm is fully healthy and all his health issues have been “cleaned up.” The righthander said he did not require any operations. If healthy, Whitley believes he can throw between 140-160 innings this season.