Milwaukee Brewers Should Sell High On Prospect Corey Ray

MARYVALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 22: Corey Ray #78 of the Milwaukee Brewers poses for a portrait during a MLB photo day at Maryvale Baseball Park on February 22, 2017 in Maryvale, Arizona. (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
MARYVALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 22: Corey Ray #78 of the Milwaukee Brewers poses for a portrait during a MLB photo day at Maryvale Baseball Park on February 22, 2017 in Maryvale, Arizona. (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images) /

The Milwaukee Brewers are looking to improve the major league ballclub. In some cases, that involves trading away prospects. This winter, the Brewers should look to trade outfielder Corey Ray.

Corey Ray was the fifth overall pick in the first round by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 2016 MLB Draft. His power-speed combination was seen as a difference maker in the big leagues considering it’s a skillset few possess.

Ray was the highest draft pick the Brewers had in their rebuilding process, which should make him a critical part of the rebuild. You would think so, but that doesn’t appear to be the case.

Why Should They Trade Corey Ray?

If there’s anything Brewers GM David Stearns loves more than anything, it’s acquiring outfielders. The Brewers now have Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich locked up in the outfield for the next four seasons. Ryan Braun is under contract for at least the next two years.

Are they going to hold Corey Ray back for two more seasons and wait until 2021 until they actually give him a shot in the big leagues? The answer to that question is probably no.

Ray was in Double-A in 2018 and, as a college draftee, he should be close to ready for a big league call-up in 2019 and will definitely be ready by 2020. But there won’t be a spot for him.

Why Is It Selling High?

Corey Ray struggled mightily to begin his professional career. In 2017, his first full season, Ray hit .238 with only seven home runs, 156 strikeouts, and a .679 OPS. He was coming off of knee surgery in the offseason, which likely played a role in these results. Nevertheless, for a power-speed guy, there wasn’t much power and his gaudy strikeout numbers were concerning.

In 2018, he found his power stroke. He finished with 27 homers, 74 RBIs, and 37 stolen bases. But he also only had a .239 batting average and 176 strikeouts.

The hole in his swing is very concerning, but he made more solid contact in 2018. The Milwaukee Brewers have shown lately they want to go away from all-or-nothing type hitters and would prefer a more balanced, patient approach that induces more contact. Corey Ray has the same kind of swing profile as Domingo Santana. Has lots of power, but strikes out a bunch.

Ray doesn’t hit for a high average. He draws a decent amount of walks, but given how bad his batting average is, his OBP is still in the .310-.320 range, which isn’t great.

2018 was Ray’s best professional season. And since he was able to do it at a high level in Double-A, the odds are good he’s going to continue to have similar kinds of stats to what he put up in Biloxi.

It Follows A Trend

During 2018, David Stearns showed a knack for trading his prospects while they were still at peak value, but were on the verge of falling. Lewis Brinson was on the verge of losing some of his prospect shine after a poor showing in MLB in 2017 and injuring his hamstring in August. Brett Phillips was struggling again in limited playing time in 2018 before he and another struggling player, Jorge Lopez, were sent to Kansas City.

Luis Ortiz was an injury prone starter who was in Double-A for three straight seasons and wasn’t on the verge of a call-up. He had frontline stuff, but lacked durability and health concerns were about to torpedo his prospect stock. So Stearns moved him for Jonathan Schoop. (Ok, that one didn’t work out, but still)

Stearns moving Corey Ray for, say, a frontline starting pitcher in a trade package would be capitalizing on his recent breakout season. His prospect shine hasn’t been this high since the draft. It’s still difficult to see Ray roaming the Brewers outfield anytime soon because of the current logjam, so why not trade him?

If Stearns waits, and Ray struggles in 2019 like he did in 2017, or if he doesn’t improve upon his strikeout numbers, his stock will fall. And then, what could he get for his former first round pick?

The Milwaukee Brewers should trade Corey Ray while he’s at peak value and teams are getting their first glimpse of his full potential.

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If Corey Ray is going to help bring back someone who can take this team to the World Series, the window for that to happen is going to be this offseason.