Draft Preview: OF Corey Ray - Louisville

Corey Ray

School: Louisville
Position: OF
Height/Weight: 5‘11”, 185
B/T: L/L
D.O.B.: 9/22/1994 (21 years old)
Previously Drafted: 2013 – Rd 33 (987) by Seattle Mariners

Scouting Reports:
“Scouts have few concerns about Ray’s hit tool as they expect him to be at least an average hitter. He has a short stroke and is balanced at the plate with a wide stance. Scouts had worried about Ray’s ability to hit lefthanders but as of early May he had an .865 OPS against them. Ray shows plus raw power and projects to hit 15-18 home runs as a pro. He’s a plus runner with the eye for stealing bases. The questions with Ray revolve around his eventual defensive position. Scouts seems almost evenly divided over whether he’s a solid average to tick-above-average center fielder or a future left fielder.” – Baseball America

“Ray’s added two inches of height and some 20 pounds of muscle since high school, without losing any of his plus running speed or athletic flexibility. His defense still needs some polish but he runs well enough to handle center field with more reps; his arm is a tick above-average. If he loses speed and can’t stay in center, he has enough pop in his bat to avoid being labeled as a tweener. His swing is simple and repeatable and he’s eased any concerns about high strikeout rates this spring. “– John Sickels, Minor League Ball

“Louisville’s Corey Ray has continued to improve his draft stock ever since stepping foot on campus in the fall of 2013 but he’s truly come into his own over the last calendar year. Known for his top-of-the-scales athleticism since his prep days, the lefthanded hitting Ray has continued to see the power tool evolve while still maintaining the hit tool and elite speed. Though he plays left field now, it’s more than probable that he’ll be sent out as a center fielder at the next level.” – Perfect Game

Scouting Grades:
Note: these grades are my summations based on all readily available scouting information from sources such as Baseball America, MLB.com and Fangraphs (Present/Future, 20-80 scale):

Hit: 50/60
Power: 50/60
Run 60/60
Arm: 50/50
Field: 50/55
Overall: 55 FV

Prospect Overview and Future Outlook:
Ray was a decent prospect coming out of Simeon HS, with “some bat speed and feel for hitting from the left side of the plate” per Baseball America. A poor Spring affected his draft stock and caused Ray to slide to the 33rd round, after which he opted to attend Louisville rather than turn pro. Some comparisons placed on Ray at the time were a “poor mans Jacky Bradley Jr.”, or a tweener like Jody Gerut.

Since stepping onto the field at Louisville, Ray has been one of the more productive hitters in college baseball.  He hit .325/.416/.481 as a freshman, showing excellent patience at the plate with a 13.4 BB%. He took a step forward in almost all areas as a sophomore, hitting .325/.389/.543 with 11 home runs and 34 stolen bases. He’s been even better this season, with a triple slash line of .319/.396/.562 with 15 home runs and 44 stolen bases. For his career, Ray has 82 stolen bases at an 82% success rate.

In additions to the tools that Ray possesses, he has also shown a strong ability to make improvements. One of Ray’s main weaknesses coming into this season was his inability to make regular contact. He ran K%’s of 25.8% and 20.2% as a freshman and sophomore, respectively. This year, he’s lowered his strikeout rate to an impressive 12.9%, and he’s done it while also raising his ISO to a career best mark of .242.

If you’re looking for weaknesses, Ray’s ability to hit good left handed pitchers has been questioned, as has his ability to hit quality breaking pitches. His defensive outlook is far from certain, too, despite his athleticism. Ray has mostly played the corner outfield spots for Louisville, and if he’s relegated to a corner position as a pro, his ceiling will be more of an above average regular than a star.

Ray doesn’t have the loud, elite level tools that one would typically seek from a top 10 pick, but he does possess a solid, well-rounded skill-set, with at least average tools across the board, allowing him to help his team win in a number of different ways. His strong performance at Louisville and mature approach at the plate should mean that he’s in a position to move quickly through the Minors. If Ray takes to a switch to CF as a pro, and can be at least average defensively at that position, then it’s easy to see him as an All-Star calibre player.

Draft Day:
Ray figures to be one of the most coveted positional players available in this draft. He has plus bat speed and has developed a good eye at the plate. He shows power to all fields and could wind up as a 20 home run per season hitter, to go along with plus batting averages. He’s an elite athlete and one of the fastest runners in this year’s class. He also receives rave reviews for his drive and work ethic. Ray looks the complete package. He’s a high floor prospect with considerable upside from a class that lacks depth in college bats.

The White Sox will be more familiar with Corey Ray than most, given that he came through the Sox’ ACE program (read more about that here), and he would make for an excellent selection at #10 should he fall that far. Currently, Baseball America have Ray coming off the board at number 3, and MLB.com have regularly had Ray being selected within the first 9 picks. There is a chance of Ray sliding to number 10 though, and it will likely require a number of the teams picking above the Sox to take a punt on a HS arm, a scenario that both Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis predict in their latest mock drafts.

Drafting for need is never a recommended strategy, but the Sox do have a hole in the Major League outfield, and there’s not much help coming from the farm, so being able to add a prospect like Ray to the system would be hard to pass up. In that case, he may be both fill a need as well as be the best player available. In addition, the Sox have focused on close to MLB ready prospects with their first pick in recent drafts and Ray would follow in that mould. If all goes well for the White Sox and Corey Ray, he could be roaming the outfield alongside Adam Eaton in his hometown within a couple years.

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