In taking our look back at the first-rounders in this year’s Almost Mock Draft, the hitters that have been profiled thus far have gotten off to pretty solid starts. Mickey Moniak is hitting well for the Phillies, Nick Senzel is on a power surge for the Reds, Blake Rutherford is hitting everything for the Yankees, and Kyle Lewis was amid a mid-season turnaround before injury struck.
Today’s prospect is Corey Ray, who has not quite gotten off to the start his first-round cohorts have.
Almost Mock Draft: No. 6 — Oakland Athletics | Actual MLB Draft: No. 5 — Milwaukee Brewers
The 2016 MLB Draft was not considered very deep, but the top end was heavy in outfield talent. Lewis, Moniak, and Rutherford were all mentioned as considerations for the Phillies at 1-1, with their amateur résumés earning them the dubious ‘five-tool player’ label. A well-balanced, stout junior campaign at Louisville added Ray to that mix as well.
Ray was drafted out of high school in the 33rd round by the Mariners in 2013, but honored his commitment to Louisville. A breakout sophomore campaign as well as a big 2015 summer with the United Stated collegiate team — where he led a cast of the nation’s biggest and brightest stars with a .971 OPS — found Ray suddenly a top outfield prospect in the country.
He had all the skills, combining a sweet left-handed swing and lethal speed into a full package, but he struggled at the plate. He struck out quite a bit his freshman and sophomore seasons, exhibiting little patience and trouble with the breaking ball. That all changed his junior season.
Ray had a big collegiate finale, slashing .310/.388/.545 while flashing that 20/20 potential, hitting 15 home runs and swiping 44 of 53 stolen base attempts. He greatly improved his strikeout-to-walk ratio, striking out 41 times and walking 36, leading to his best OBP of his career. His All-American campaign all equated to his second time being drafted, this time by the Milwaukee Brewers, fifth overall.
The Brewers quickly signed Ray for $4.125 million, just $260,000 under slot value. They obviously liked Ray’s skill set, skipping him over both Rookie level and Low-A and sending him straight to the pitcher-friendly, Advanced-A Florida State League with the Brevard County Manatees.
It has been a struggle for Ray. He made his debut on July 4, but unfortunately for Ray there were few fireworks that day, or for the ensuing days that followed. The first five games of his professional career saw Ray go 2-for-21, striking out at least once in each of those games and not drawing a single walk over the same span.
Ray turned it on, and looked like he was ready to turn a corner with a nine-game hitting streak, including six two-hit games over the run. He got his average up to a respectable .266, but 15 games into his career, he had still drawn just two walks.
It has been up and down the rest of the way for the 21-year-old rookie. He will sprinkle in solid offense appearing on the verge of turning it around — as in his recent run from August 9-12, where he went 5-for-16 with home runs on consecutive days — but have stretches where he seemingly can’t buy a hit, as he did the three games prior to that run, going 0-for-11. It’s as if he got the engine started, and it is idling as it waits to get running.
For more on Ray head on over to Today’s Knuckleball for my full feature by clicking on the link below: