Health Is Key For Corey Ray's Redemption
Outfielder Corey Ray understands the expectations that come with being a first-round pick. He also understands people will be disappointed if you don’t meet those expectations.
The fifth overall pick in 2016 out of Louisville isn’t big into making excuses. But as Ray looked back on his subpar showing in 2017, he realized he might not have fully trusted his surgically repaired knee. That might have led to bad habits at the plate.
The 23-year-old Ray tore cartilage in his left knee sliding into a base at 2016 instructional league. He spent that offseason rehabbing his knee to the point where he felt ready to open last season at high Class A Carolina.
Ray did not come close to resembling the offensive force he was in college, however, after being held back a few weeks in extended spring training to assure his knee was ready. In 112 games with the Mudcats he hit .238/.311/.367 with seven home runs and 24 stolen bases. Alarmingly, he led the Carolina League with 156 strikeouts.
The Brewers hoped to get the lefthanded-hitting Ray on track in the Arizona Fall League, but he continued to struggle, batting .231 with one homer and 19 strikeouts in 78 at-bats. He went home to reflect on the rough year.
"Last year, I wanted to do well, and I told myself I wouldn’t let the injury be an excuse for me not doing well,” Ray told reporters during spring training. "This year, I just want to stay healthy and continue to get better.
"I felt like I got better last year. I got better in the Fall League. I got better in the offseason, and I’m getting better in spring training. The goal is to just get better and be the best player that I can be.”
Now, with a year of learning and further strengthening of his knee, Ray expects to show at Double-A Biloxi why he was one of the top prospects in the 2016 draft. His confidence remains intact, which is vital.
"This year, he appears to be in a really good place,” farm director Tom Flanagan said.
Corey Ray Faces Pivotal 2020 Season
Ray scuffled through an injury-shortened year at Triple-A last season, but along the way he learned a valuable lesson about the healing process.
>> Second baseman Keston Hiura, the 2017 first-rounder who experienced elbow issues at UC Irvine, was expected to mostly DH in the early weeks of 2018 at high Class A Carolina after he experienced discomfort making throws at the end of spring training.
>> Righthander Adrian Houser, who was assigned to Biloxi after missing nearly two years following Tommy John surgery, received an unexpected callup to Milwaukee on April 7 when he replaced injured closer Corey Knebel on the roster.