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Crew prospect ready for big bounce back

@AdamMcCalvy
January 13, 2020

MILWAUKEE -- The 2020 season was already shaping into a pivotal year for 25-year-old Corey Ray -- Milwaukee’s No. 4-rated prospect, according to MLB Pipeline. Ray faces a comeback from an injury-marred 2019, and organizational mainstay Ryan Braun is entering the final guaranteed year of his deal. The Brewers traded

MILWAUKEE -- The 2020 season was already shaping into a pivotal year for 25-year-old Corey Ray -- Milwaukee’s No. 4-rated prospect, according to MLB Pipeline.

Ray faces a comeback from an injury-marred 2019, and organizational mainstay Ryan Braun is entering the final guaranteed year of his deal. The Brewers traded up-and-coming outfielder Trent Grisham to the Padres in November, further clearing Ray’s path to the Major Leagues.

Ray has a simple mindset entering an important season.

“I think for me, the thing in 2020 is quality at-bats,” Ray said. “As many quality at-bats as I can possibly put together -- try and go the whole year without giving away an at-bat. And really understanding what a quality at-bat looks like, right?

“Some people could say [avoiding] strikeouts. Some people could say hard contact. But what is a quality at-bat in the situation I’m in? … I think the sum of a whole season of chasing quality at-bats is more successful than chasing a batting average.”

Ray, Milwaukee’s Minor League Player of the Year in 2018 and a Spring Training standout last year, wound up taking his lumps in a season spent mostly at Triple-A San Antonio. The outfielder endured two stints on the injured list with a right middle finger injury suffered on an early-season dive, and he posted a slash line of .218/.291/.363 between rookie ball and the Double-A and Triple-A levels.

That was markedly down from his production a year earlier at Double-A Biloxi, where Ray posted an .801 OPS and hit a career-best 27 home runs.

Still, the Brewers think enough of the fifth overall pick in the 2016 Draft that they selected him to attend the Rookie Career Development Program, a collaboration of MLB and the MLB Players Association since 1992.

All 30 Major League organizations send up-and-coming players on the cusp of reaching the big leagues to help them avoid the kinds of speed bumps or pitfalls that can keep them from reaching their on-field potential. There are sessions on dealing with the media, how to handle situations in the clubhouse, drugs in baseball, inclusion and financial planning, just to name a handful of issues addressed. Players get to interact with each other around these topics, and there are breakout sessions with former big leaguers to allow smaller groups of players to drill further down on specific issues.

Every year, the RCDP has participants go from these sessions to big league rosters in the upcoming season. Players who have gone on to become Rookies of the Year, Cy Young Award winners and MVPs have attended the program, including the 2019 National League Rookie of the Year Pete Alonso.

Besides Ray, the Brewers’ participants were left-hander/outfielder Clayton Andrews (No. 30 on MLB Pipeline’s Brewers list), right-hander J.P. Feyereisen and left-hander Angel Perdomo. Ray, Feyereisen and Perdomo are already on Milwaukee’s 40-man roster.

“You learn about the big league life being here in this program,” Ray said. “A lot of guys, this is the first step in the transition from the Minor Leagues to the big leagues, and the opportunity to learn about the big league life before I get there [is valuable]. And it means the Brewers see me as a big leaguer, which is pretty encouraging.”

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram and like him on Facebook.