CINCINNATI -- It was a clean sweep of the Southern League's major awards for the Brewers' Double-A Biloxi affiliate.
Former first-round Draft pick Corey Ray was named the league's Most Valuable Player, right-hander Zack Brown was named the league's most outstanding pitcher and Mike Guerrero was named manager of the year on Wednesday. Ray is MLB Pipeline's No. 2 Brewers prospect, and Brown is No. 8.
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"Sweeping the awards is a great honor that extends not only to the three individuals, but to the whole Biloxi team and coaching staff," said Brewers farm director Tom Flanagan, who was en route back to Milwaukee on Wednesday after a few days with the Biloxi club. "Corey and Zack had fantastic years, to be sure. But they would be the first to heap praise on their teammates and the staff for helping them to earn their awards."
It's not unprecedented; the Jackson Generals swept the same trio of awards two years ago. But it does bode well for Ray, the Brewers organization's first Southern League MVP since Hunter Morris in 2012, and Brown, the organization's first Southern League pitcher of the year since Jorge Lopez in 2015.
Entering Wednesday, Ray, the fifth overall pick in the 2016 Draft, leads the Southern League with 27 home runs, 32 doubles, 35 stolen bases and was second with 73 RBIs and 83 runs scored. His .807 OPS is 128 points higher than last season and Class A Advanced Carolina, when Ray was coming back from a knee injury.
"I think a fully healthy Corey Ray has shown he can do some pretty big things," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "I'm excited about it. You see the year he's had and how it stacks up against a lot of other Minor Leaguers, and he's in pretty rare air with doing some things that very few guys are doing."
MILB Video - Title: Ray smashes 26th home run - Url: http://www.milb.com/r/video?content_id=2412189583
Brown won the league's pitching honor despite missing a month with a sprained left ankle. He leads the league with a 2.48 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP, and has 113 strikeouts in 119 2/3 innings. The Shuckers are 18-2 when he starts.
"Zack is a well-blended package of the physical and mental side of pitching," Biloxi pitching coach Dave Chavarria said. "Physically, he can throw anything at you and make quick adjustments. Mentally, he's not afraid to make mistakes and learn from them. He's a great teammate, eager to get better every day that he's out there, and just loves to compete."
MILB Video - Title: Brown's 6th K - Url: http://www.milb.com/r/video?content_id=2027056883
Under Guerrero, the Shuckers need to win one of their final five games to set a club record for regular season victories. They have already clinched a postseason berth, and will host the first two games of their best-of-five South Division Championship Series next Wednesday and Thursday.
Callups coming into focus
The Brewers will set a plan for September callups on Thursday, Counsell said, giving the players involved a chance to get to Washington to join the Brewers. They will come in waves; a handful on Saturday when rosters expand, at least one more Sunday when Zach Davies and Corey Knebel are eligible to return from optional assignments to the Minors, and potentially more later next week, though Counsell said Major League needs would supersede Triple-A Colorado Springs' potential playoff appearance.
"It'll be kind of need-based a little bit as far as we go there," Counsell said.
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Among the players hopeful of a promotion is the only other catcher on Milwaukee's 40-man roster, Jacob Nottingham. The Brewers' No. 9 prospect has arrived in Colorado Springs after rehabbing a fractured wrist in Phoenix, and he's on track to be active for the SkySox at some point this weekend. That would position him to be in one of the secondary waves of callups.