MILWAUKEE -- It was a case of mutual admiration when the Brewers' MLB Pipeline hitting and pitching prospects of the year reunited in the dugout at Miller Park at the end of September.
Corey Ray and Zack Brown spent a lot of time together in dugouts in 2018. They were teammates at Double-A Biloxi.
"We would score, and I would come in the dugout and say, 'How many more do you need?'" said Ray, the former first-round Draft pick who batted leadoff for Biloxi. "A lot of times, he would look at the scoreboard and say, 'That's good.'"
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Many times, those runs would come in the first inning thanks to Ray, the first player in Southern League history to lead the way in both homers and stolen bases. He was named league MVP, and Brown was the circuit's pitcher of the year after leading the league and the Brewers organization with a 2.44 ERA.
Each team's hitting and pitching Prospects of the Year were chosen by the MLB Pipeline staff. To receive consideration, players must have spent at least half the year in the Minors and appeared on the team's Top 30 Prospects list.
"It was awesome to start a game with Corey in the box," said Brown. "However many leadoff home runs he hit -- you knew he was going to put the bat on the ball early in the game. Hopefully, before I ever touched the mound, I had a run or two."
It was the sort of season Ray was looking for after a relatively disappointing 2017. Milwaukee made him the fifth overall pick in the '16 Draft, and Ray posted a .679 OPS at Class A Advanced Carolina in his first full professional season.
This year, after moving up to Double-A, his OPS was .801. Ray hit 27 homers, 32 doubles and seven triples while stealing 37 bases.
"For me, mentally, just for some of the hard work to have paid off in a small way is very encouraging," Ray said. "You work so hard, and you know that one day it will pay off. Just to be moving in the right direction allows me to continue to work hard -- and maybe even work harder."
Brown, a fifth-round pick in the same Draft that brought Ray to the Brewers, won the honor despite missing a month with a sprained ankle. The Shuckers were 20-2 when he pitched.
"It took a hit on me mentally, but I think in Arizona I was just trying to stay on track," Brown said. "It was four weeks between outings in Biloxi, and to come back and have a good outing and get back with the guys -- that was huge for me."
The duo were together in Milwaukee to be honored on the field during the final homestand of the regular season after being named organizational Minor League player and pitcher of the year by the Brewers. For Brown, that meant following in some big footsteps; the previous two winners of the award, Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes, were the first two pitchers sent to the mound by the Brewers in Game 1 of the National League Division Series against the Rockies.