Matt Way hasn't had quite the success that he has enjoyed in the past, but seems to be weathering the struggles well. The problems actually started in camp when Way came up with a sore back and had to be shelved for a while to get healthy. Once the regular season started, Way was behind in his work and was catching up while facing hitters who had full springs under their belt, putting him at a distinct disadvantage. After just two starts, Way was 0-2 with a 10.13 ERA and had lasted just a combined eight innings in his two outings. Much of April was spent with Way trying to put things together after his early set back and he finished the month 0-3 with a 6.84 ERA for Lakewood.
Seemingly with a flip of the calendar to the month of May, things started to turn around for the 23 year-old left-hander. Way started the season with a 7 2/3 inning outing against Savannah and has quality starts in three of his five starts in the month of May and finished the month with a 2.32 ERA and a 3-1 record. When we scouted Way - May 30th at Delmarva - he was missing high in the zone and clearly didn't have his best stuff. His velocity was also a few miles per hour off of where it normally is, with his fastball sitting in the upper-80s for much of his outing. In six innings, Way walked a season-high six hitters and struck out four, just off his pace of just over a strikeout per inning.
It's not always a bad thing to see a pitcher work on a day when he doesn't have his best stuff; you can learn a lot from watching a pitcher in just that situation. What Way showed in his outing was that he has the ability to stay poised on the mound and battle hitters. Things started well for Way when his offense gave him a quick 1-0 lead in the first and he did exactly what you want a pitcher to do when a team takes the lead; shut down the other team. Way got a simple groundball out and then struck out the next two hitters in the first and seemed to be on his mark. Things started to get tougher after that though when Way gave up three hits to start the bottom of the second. Eventually, Way got out of the inning in decent shape, having allowed two earned runs, but it could have been much worse.
In the fifth and sixth innings, Way started to get the ball down in the zone a little better than he had been doing earlier in the game and was able to get double-plays in each inning, working out of a first-and-second, no out jam in the fifth. Reliever Luke Wertz came on in relief in the bottom of the seventh and teamed with Jordan Ellis to get the final nine outs of the game.
There is no denying that Way has the tools to be a strong prospect for a major league rotation at some point down the road. To see him battle through six innings of work on a day when he didn't have his best stuff was nice to see. Way mixed his pitches throughout the game and showed a good curve with a velocity around 80 mph.
One slight piece of concern about Way is in his mechanics. His front foot doesn't plant straight toward home plate, landing more toward the first base side of the mound, which brings his left arm sharply across his body to deliver his pitches. It's a motion that no pitching coach would want to teach and can be hard for a pitcher to repeat on a regular basis with exact consistency. Way appears to have pretty well mastered the mechanics, but until he shows that he can provide season after season of consistent pitching success, there's going to be some question mark about his mechanics. The question comes in as to whether Way can be successful with those mechanics, since he hasn't been able to completely repeat his success from last season when he was a combined 6-4, 2.39 between Williamsport and Lakewood. Part of his problems early in the season may have stemmed from recurring issues from his spring back injury, so we'll have to watch how Way progresses through the rest of the season. If he can start to duplicate his May numbers, he'll replenish some of the confidence that has been built up for his ability to succeed long-term.
You may wonder why the Phillies don't just change his mechanics to something a little more conventional. Sometimes, messing with a young pitcher's mechanics can be a major setback for him and teams many times are willing to work with a young pitcher's quirks as long as he is having some success. And, there are a number of pitchers in the history of the game who haven't had perfect mechanics, but were very successful. The up-side to Way's mechanics are that it gives hitters a completely different angle to look for pitches from and can sometimes put them well off balance.
The tools are there for Matt Way. Now that he's healthy, he should be able to continue the success that he has had in May. He showed the ability to battle without his best stuff and keep his club in the game, which is one sign of a good pitcher, especially when it's a young pitcher doing the work. Keep an eye on Way's numbers for the rest of the season, since he's got the potential to be a solid pitcher and if all goes well, he could also be in line for a promotion to Clearwater before the end of the season.
Matt Way's career stats