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Corey Ray Rebounds In A Big Way

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BEST PLAYER

Outfielder Corey Ray was a mess mechanically at the plate last season after getting into bad habits upon returning from a knee injury the previous fall. He worked hard over the offseason, regrouped with his approach and looked more like the fifth overall pick in the 2016 draft out of Louisville.

In particular, Ray unleashed his significant power potential at Double-A Biloxi. The 23-year-old led the Southern League in home runs (27), doubles (32) and slugging percentage (.477) and was named the league's MVP.

Batting mostly in the leadoff spot, Ray also led the league in stolen bases (37) and ranked among the leaders in runs (86).

Ray used his above-average speed to make a difference on the basepaths as well as chasing down balls in center field. His one limiting factor was a high strikeout total of 176, which ranked second highest in the league.

BEST PITCHER

A 2016 fifth-round pick out of Kentucky, righthander Zack Brown made progress last year at two Class A levels, recording a 3.11 ERA over 22 appearances. But that paled in comparison to the huge leap the 23-year-old made this year at Biloxi.

In 23 outings (22 starts), Brown went 9-1 and led the Southern League with a 2.40 ERA, earning him most outstanding pitcher honors. He surrendered just 98 hits in 127.3 innings, striking out 119 and walking 37.

The only hiccup in Brown's season was a sprained knee that forced him out of action for about three weeks late in the second half.

Brown’s fastball sits in the 90-94 mph range and he mixes in a sinker and circle-changeup, but he believes a big reason for his rise is a power curveball that buckles hitters’ knees. He throws it in the low 80s, giving opponents less time to react.

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KEEP AN EYE ON

The Brewers thought catcher Payton Henry had big upside when they drafted him in the sixth round out of Pleasant Grove (Utah) High in 2016. They were excited when he took charge behind the plate at low Class A Wisconsin this season as a 21-year-old.

The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Henry has physical strength and uses that to his advantage, showing good power (14 doubles, 10 homers). He needs to continue working on plate discipline and pitch recognition.

Behind the plate, Henry shows above-average arm strength. He threw out 44 percent of basestealers to rank third among Midwest League catchers. Beyond that, the Brewers love the way Henry keeps his energy level high despite the rigors of catching.

"A year ago, he was further ahead defensively, but he has really improved all areas of his game this year,” farm director Tom Flanagan said. "We think he has a chance to be a really good receiver, and we love the tremendous energy he has.”

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