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Northwest Florida Raiders pitcher Beck Way (37) during a game against the St. Petersburg Titans on January 31, 2020 at Lake Myrtle Sports Park in Auburndale, Florida. Northwest Florida defeated St. Petersburg 5-1. (Mike Janes/Four Seam Images)

2020 MLB Draft

Coach’s Insight: Northwest Florida State manager Doug Harris talks RHP Beck Way

In our coach’s insight series, we tried to get more information about the 2020 New York Yankees draft picks and undrafted free agents from people who have coached them in college. Today, we take a look at the Yankees’ 4th Round pick, RHP Beck Way.

Way spent the 2020 season at Northwest Florida State Junior College after transferring from Belmont Abbey College (played there in 2018). In 7 starts this season before the COVID-19 pandemic, Way was 5-0, he allowed three earned runs, struck out 58 batters, and walked 9 over the course of 40 innings.

His manager for the Raiders this past year was Doug Martin, who has been the manager there for 13 years.This week, we talked to Martin about what stood out to him about Way as a player and person, improvements he has made to his game, the start that best highlighted him the most, and much more.

R: When you first recruited Beck Way, what stood out to you the most about him?

Coach Martin:  Right, well we had caught wind of him through some baseball people that had seen him in the Cape Cod League, so we followed up with that. We were given the evaluation that he had a really good arm, he had three pitches, and it just was kind of had not logged a bunch of innings in either at the college he was formerly at or up there, he was kind of a bullpen guy. So, but no doubt, the evaluation was a really good arm with good stuff. So for us, at our level, we take those things and we try to work with them and develop them. That was kind of the scouting report when we caught wind of him.

R: For someone who hasn’t see him pitch, how would you describe his pitch arsenal?

CM: Well, he’s a three-pitch mix guy, which in my mind would make him a potential guy that can start. His fastball can run into the mid 90s at times, but more so than just that, it also has some good late movement to it. His arm slot is where it will run in to a right-hander and away from a left-hander. His breaking ball is more of a slurve, in between a true slider and a curveball, but it is firm. Sometimes in the mid 80s. When he gets on top of it, it has some real nice depth to it.

Probably his best pitch out of the three to me is his changeup, which he sometimes we would get guys with good arms that would never buy into the changeup, but he kind of learned that he needed that third pitch if he wants to be a starter, so he worked real hard on that pitch. He’s got good characteristics for it in terms of arm speed is very similar to his fastball and it comes out of the same arm slot as his fastball. The ball has some good action when it gets around the swing of the bat. So, he’s a three-pitch mix guy and I would say the Yankees would probably try to groom him as a starter at least initially and see how that works out.

R: How have you seen that changeup develop from when he first got on campus to now? Has it been a big improvement or is he just been steady with it since he first started pitching?

CM: Yeah, I think all of his pitches have improved since he has been with us. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. The biggest thing that sticks out is his consistency with them. That was still a huge question mark coming in. He had a really good arm, but we weren’t real sure how many strikes he was going to throw or how consistent he was going to be through the later innings throwing strikes.

I don’t think you have to look any further than his first outing of the year. We had all of our pitchers on pitch counts obviously being early in the season. But, he threw 4 innings in his first outing and he threw 43 pitches (37 of them were strikes) and he did it with all three of his pitches. That answers a lot of questions right there in terms of the consistency that you look for.

R:  What kind of person would the Yankees be getting with this pick should he decide to go professional?

CM: Yeah, I think they are getting somebody that baseball is very important to him. He wants to be good, he wants to be successful. He does a good job of studying what the best do and he tries to take some of those components that he watches with those players into his own game. He’s a good student of the game. He’s a good teammate. While he was here, his teammates enjoyed having him as a teammate. He genuinely pulls for other people, it’s not always just about him.

He’s well-liked by his teammates and he’s easy to coach because he wants to learn. He’s not set in everything that he does. He’s going to listen. He’ll try it. Sometimes it works for him, sometimes it doesn’t. But, he’s open-minded to be coached and that’s important because obviously, there’s still work ahead of him to develop to the level that he’s got to be at to be a big leaguer. The good news is, he’s very coachable to do that.

R:  Since the game was stopped due to the COVID-19 pandemic, what was your communication like with Beck during that process?

CM: Yeah, I was here and he knew he could call if he wanted to bounce something off me. He talks to a lot of people, to a lot of organizations, had meetings with many of them. You know, I’m sure he talked to his advisors and his family a lot. So, just another resource is all. Don’t try to get into their business. At the end of the day, they make the decision. He knows that he could call and he did and we talked about things. He wanted to play pro ball even though he had an offer from LSU, but this was his goal. Certainly worked out pretty good.

R: What would you say is the most unique thing about playing in the panhandle? And how can that help prepare a pitcher like back for pro ball?

CM: Unfortunately, we didn’t get to get into the panhandle season because that’s when the pandemic hit. He had faced some really good teams coming into the panhandle season and had great success. Our league down here playing junior college baseball in Florida is as good as it gets. Our league is very good. All teams are good. So, it is challenging. We had guys that get our support and they come down here, try to throw the ball hard, throw it by people, and they don’t work.

You got to learn how to pitch and he figured that out pretty quick and bought into that philosophy and that’s probably why he had so much success. That’s why his numbers are so good. He was not a thrower. He pitched the baseball. He used all three pitches and did them in different counts. I think it will serve him well. He’s got battle tested opportunities under his belt, which will only help him as he moves forward.

R: With the advanced analytics being prevalent in baseball, how much is exposed to Beck at this level and is there any stat he has showed the more interest in?

CM: We all try to buy into this analytical thing because we understand that’s what baseball is going into, but for me, baseball’s always been a game of numbers. They are trying to invent more numbers to evaluate I guess and that’s great. For us, the analytics were what was my strike-throwing percentage, how often did I get ahead in the count, how often did I get a first-pitch out, what percentage was my two out finish? Those are the numbers that really play in-game. Those are kind of the analytics that we kind of continue to enforce because regardless of how many numbers they invent or stats that they create to analyze these guys’ effectiveness and abilities.

The bottom line is you got to throw the ball over the plate, you got to get ahead in the count, you got to get that leadoff hitter out, and you got to finish the inning once you get two outs. Those analytics are going to stand the test of time. There will be so much more that the Yankees will dive into with numbers more so than what we probably did, but those will always be a good backbone for him as he continues to move forward.

R: I think that’s a good point because at this stage for kids at the college level, it comes to the point, you don’t want to bog them down with too many numbers to where they start to overthink things. In your mind, is that just a good foundation to where regardless of the analytics you look at with a changeup or curveball or fastball, just looking at the result before you dive into a pitch?

CM: I mean, I just don’t think that’s the most important thing in our game. These kids, when we get them, they are still 18-19 years old. You may have the greatest spin rate you ever want to see, but if you can’t throw it in the strike zone, what good does that do as an example. Our focus is on those things. Like I said earlier, he is going to get with the Yankees and they’re going to have so much more advanced technology at their disposal that’s going to fine-tune him so much more than what we did.

Still, at the end of the day, this is the foundation and it will be the foundation for as long as he pitches. That’s kind of where our level of development, our stage, and these kids’ careers where we fit in. I’m not opposed to any of those analytical things. They are all very good. At the end of the day, when the umpire says play ball, if you can’t get take that baseball and fill up the strike zone with whatever spin rate you got, then what are we doing? That’s kind of our philosophy.

I think it served him well while he was there and that will foundation will carry him. When he gets to the Yankees, the Yankees will be able to take him and enhance him and do so much more. I’m looking forward to seeing his development when it comes to getting that kind of coaching.

R: You mentioned that he had one start early in the season where out of 43 pitches, 37 pitches for strikes. How rare is that for a pitcher to start off the year showing that kind of consistency when it is normal for rust to happen when you first begin a season?

CM: I was truly impressed with that about him with anybody’s outing and I have been doing this in junior college for 25 years. Not only that, you mention the rust and the first time out there, there were probably 50 scouts out there and they were all there to see him. Then, you have the excitement of the first game of the year and the anticipation and sometimes people get so excited, they get out of their own comfort zone and try to do too much.

It would have been so easy for him to try to rare back and throw harder than he needed to. Balls would be all over the bat, we would be behind in the count, walking guys, hitting guys. So, to me, that was as impressive pitching performance when all of those factors could have been involved as to why he didn’t pitch well, the more impressed I was with how he went out and he did that.

R: If there is one area of Beck’s game you feel needs improvement, what would that be?

CM: He is just going to continue to grow. He’s going to get more physical. He is just now buying into the physical conditioning that he needs to do with his body. He’s got a slender long frame to him. 3-4 years down the line, it won’t be surprising to see him gain 20-25 pounds of good weight. It will be very interesting to see what that does to have his stuff. I think maturing physically is the biggest thing and that’s just going to happen over time. With that, comes refinement of his pitches and consistency of those. I think his best days are ahead of him.[/membership]

Written By

I am an alum of St. John's University, where I majored in sports management.

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