Highlighted by Louisville outfielder Corey Ray, who was selected fifth overall by the Brewers, the 2016 MLB Draft saw a new class of Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities, Urban Youth Academy and Breakthrough Series graduates start their paths to the Major Leagues.Ray, who hails from Chicago -- and attended the
Highlighted by Louisville outfielder Corey Ray, who was selected fifth overall by the Brewers, the 2016 MLB Draft saw a new class of Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities, Urban Youth Academy and Breakthrough Series graduates start their paths to the Major Leagues.
Ray, who hails from Chicago -- and attended the same school, Simeon Career Academy, as NBA players Jabari Parker and Derrick Rose -- went through the White Sox RBI program. He also played in the 2011 Breakthrough Series, an annual joint effort of MLB and USA Baseball to expose a diverse group of top high school players to professional scouts and college recruiters.
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"The instruction I got ... and the opportunities I was given definitely helped me," Ray said in a conference call after being drafted on Thursday. "I think there will be more guys who will do great things in baseball coming out of that program because of everything the White Sox do on the South Side of Chicago."
Draftees who went through MLB's RBI program included Ray, at the top of the Draft class -- he entered the event as MLBPipeline.com's No. 6 prospect overall -- as well as Jeremy Martinez (Cardinals, Round 4), Kyle Roberts (Rangers, Round 5), Dylan Prohoroff (Pirates, Round 8), Hosea Nelson (Indians, Round 9), Brandon White (Braves, Round 13), Seth Martinez (A's, Round 17) and Tyree Thompson (Rangers, Round 26).
Jeremy Martinez and Thompson were also alumni of MLB's Urban Youth Academies -- Martinez attended the Academy in Compton, Calif., and Thompson attended the one in New Orleans, becoming the second player in history to be drafted out of the New Orleans Academy. The other UYA graduates selected in the Draft included Jaime Estrada (Orioles, Round 26) and Jaylon McLaughlin (Mets, Round 38), both attendees of the Compton Academy.
Players drafted who did not go through the Urban Youth Academy or an RBI program but did play in a Breakthrough Series included Taylor Trammell (Reds, No. 35 overall), Jordan Sheffield (Dodgers, No. 36 overall), Alex Speas (Rangers, Round 2) and Akil Baddoo (Twins, No. 74 overall).
After Ray was picked, the slew of other RBI program and Urban Youth Academy draftees followed.
Jeremy Martinez was in the Venice Boys & Girls Club RBI program, while Roberts and Nelson attended Detroit RBI. Prohoroff is from the Angels' RBI program, with White from the White Sox RBI program and Seth Martinez from the Arizona RBI program. Thompson is an alumnus of the New Orleans RBI program.
The RBI program attempts to give youth in underserved and diverse communities the opportunity to play baseball and softball while encouraging academic achievement. In the same spirit, the Urban Youth Academy program was created to give young people around the U.S. the opportunity to receive baseball and softball instruction at no cost. There are five Academies currently open -- each with multiple fields and training facilities -- and three more in development.
This year, six of the top 24 selections in the Draft were African-American or Latino -- with Ray the highest pick -- as well as 10 of the first 41 selections and 17 of the 77 players chosen on Day 1. In the past five years, 34 African-American players have been drafted in the first round, among 168 total selections.
David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.