SEPTEMBER 23: Nova underwent surgery to repair the ACL injury, Jake Kaplan of the Athletic was among those to relay. He’s expected to miss the first half of the 2022 season. The Astros will need to reinstate Nova from the injured list over the offseason, but they can place him back on the 60-day IL at the start of next season to reopen 40-man roster space. Nova will receive major league salary and service time as long as he’s on the major league 60-day IL.
SEPTEMBER 20: The Astros are selecting reliever Seth Martinez to the MLB roster, relays Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle. Peter Solomon has been optioned to Triple-A Sugar Land in a corresponding move. To clear space for Martinez on the 40-man roster, minor league infielder Freudis Nova has been recalled and placed on the major league 60-day injured list.
Martinez is up for his first major league action. The right-hander was selected by the division-rival A’s in the 17th round of the 2016 draft coming out of Arizona State University. He spent the next four seasons in the Oakland system, topping out at Double-A. The Astros snagged him in the minor league phase of last winter’s Rule 5 draft and gave him an opportunity at the minors’ top level.
In his first crack against Triple-A hitters, Martinez has found plenty of success working in a multi-inning relief capacity. He’s soaked up 56 2/3 frames over 35 appearances with the Skeeters, posting a 2.86 ERA despite the generally hitter-friendly Triple-A environment. Martinez has backed that run prevention up with fantastic peripherals, striking out a huge 33.5% of opposing hitters while issuing free passes at an 8.8% rate. The 27-year-old has impressively gotten better at missing bats as he’s faced higher-level opponents. After posting just a 20% strikeout rate in Low-A in 2017, he’s successively improved his strikeout percentage year by year (25% at High-A in 2018, 29% at Double-A in 2019, 34% this season in Triple-A) to earn himself a big league look.
Nova, who was added to the 40-man roster last offseason to keep him from selection in the Rule 5 draft, has spent the 2021 season with High-A Asheville. The 21-year-old suffered a torn ACL in his left knee last week. Obviously, he won’t play again this year and it wouldn’t be a surprise if the issue affects his early-season availability in 2022. (The team didn’t provide any sort of timetable on his recovery).
It’s a disappointing development for one of the Astros’ more promising infield prospects. A high-profile amateur signee out of the Dominican Republic in July 2016, Nova quickly rose near the top of the organization in the eyes of some evaluators. His stock has slipped thanks to disappointing performances in recent seasons — including a .224/.301/.335 line in 282 High-A plate appearances this year — but he still checked in 27th on Baseball America’s midseason update of Astros’ farmhands.
In a bit of a silver lining in an otherwise frustrating situation, Nova will at least pick up his first big league service time and pay for the season’s final two weeks. Players on the minor league injured list don’t accrue MLB service or pay but do continue to count against a team’s 40-man roster. In order to open the 40-man spot, the Astros will give Nova a bump in salary for the rest of the regular season.