PHOENIX -- As part of MLBPipeline.com's visit to all 30 Spring Training facilities, we'll be sitting down with prospects and getting to know them a little better. At Brewers camp, it was No. 2 prospect Corey Ray. Ray led the U.S. collegiate national team in OPS (.971), extra-base hits (nine)
PHOENIX -- As part of MLBPipeline.com's visit to all 30 Spring Training facilities, we'll be sitting down with prospects and getting to know them a little better. At Brewers camp, it was No. 2 prospect Corey Ray.
Ray led the U.S. collegiate national team in OPS (.971), extra-base hits (nine) and steals (11) in the summer of 2015, showcasing his all-around ability and setting the stage for him to go fifth overall in the 2016 Draft, making him the highest pick in Louisville history. After signing the outfielder for a franchise-record $4,125,000, Milwaukee challenged him with an immediate assignment to Class A Advanced Brevard County, where he started slowly before finishing with a .247/.307/.385 line, five homers and nine steals in 57 games. The 22-year-old Ray tore the meniscus in his left knee during instructional league, requiring surgery that kept him from being a full participant at the start of Spring Training.
• Brewers' Top 30 Prospects list
MLBPipeline.com: The obvious first question is . . . how's your knee?
Ray: It feels great. It doesn't even feel like I've been injured. I've started running and I think I'll be able to play in games maybe by the end of March. We'll wait and see. I was trying to steal third base in instructional league and my knee just got caught under me. I thought I jammed it at first, but it wasn't getting any better.
MLBPipeline.com: The Mariners drafted you in the 33rd round out of a Chicago high school and reportedly made you a generous offer. Is it true you wanted to sign, but your father wouldn't let you?
• Pipeline report: Brewers' camp
:: MLB Pipeline Spring Training reports ::
Ray: Definitely. I would have been gone if it was my decision. It was a good amount. I was upset initially and more upset when I didn't play in the first half of my freshman year. Instead of sitting on the bench in college, I could have been learning in pro ball and getting paid to do it. By midway through my sophomore year, I was comfortable with it. I got a lot better from the discipline college brings. I learned a lot about my body. I got stronger and faster.
MLBPipeline.com: How much did you pay attention to the Draft after coming into 2016 as a likely first-round buzz? Did you try to block it out or were you aware of all of the buzz?
Ray: I was aware. I used it as fuel. I was (angry) no one was saying I was the No. 1 player in the country. Me being the competitor I am, I wanted everybody to say I was the No. 1 pick and No. 1 prospect in the country. I used it as fuel to work harder.
MLBPipeline.com: Most college players head from the Draft to Rookie or short-season ball, maybe low Class A. What did you think when the Brewers told you they were assigning you to high Class A to begin your career?
Ray: I definitely looked forward to the challenge. I wanted to go to high A and be challenged and grow and learn. It definitely made me better. I learned a lot. I learned I didn't have to cheat to hit the ball hard. I just have to get the barrel on the ball. It taught me the importance of routine. Get up, get my work in, stay with my routine.
MLBPipeline.com: Scouts praise your all-around tools, but some have reservations about your ability to remain in center field. What do you think your best tool is? How much do you want to stay in center?
Ray: Hitting for average. I don't think I'm a power hitter. I believe home runs are thrown, not hit, unless you're David Ortiz or someone like that. Every time I try to hit a home run, I fly out. I just try to hit the ball hard and let my swing do the work. It really ticks me off when I hear that about center field. Coming out of high school, no one questioned my ability to play center field. Did I go to Louisville and get worse? I didn't have as many reps in center field in college, so I was a little slow with my jumps and reads in pro ball, but I've gotten better. I surprise myself with some of the balls I get to. I want to be the best center fielder I can possibly be. I'm still learning the position.
Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.