The 2016 draft, particularly at the top, is a bit of a mess. That’s not to say that there isn’t talent to be had, but more that no one really knows who the top talent(s) are as no one has really staked claim as a clear front runner at this point. Depending on where you look, the names at the top include pitchers Jason Groome, Riley Pint and AJ Puk. The hitters include Delvin Perez, Blake Rutherford, Nick Senzel, Kyle Lewis, Corey Ray and Mickey Moniak.
The Cincinnati Reds hold the 2nd overall pick in the upcoming Major League Baseball draft. The pick represents the highest spot in the draft in which they have ever had the chance to select a player and ideally should give them access to either the best pitcher in the draft or the best hitter. Of course, depending on how they and the Phillies both draft, maybe they wind up with their second choice of pitchers/hitters, but regardless, the organization is in position to acquire premium talent that teams don’t often get a chance to make.
Today I wanted to really dive into one of those names on the position player side of the ledger. Louisville outfielder Corey Ray ranks as high as the #3 prospect in the draft (Keith Law/ESPN), but is in the Top 10 rankings no matter where you look. He’s considered to be a very toolsy player, perhaps even a 5-tool guy. There are some who doubt he’s capable of playing center field and that would be a big negative mark on his value if that’s the case, but any team that selects him in the top five likely believes he can handle the position.
The Cardinals outfielder is hitting .327/.395/.618 with 19 walks and 22 strikeouts this season over the course of 190 plate appearances. He’s hit 13 doubles, one triple and 11 home runs while also stealing 31 bases in 36 attempts. All of that sounds pretty good, though his average and on-base percentage aren’t exactly great for a college hitter that’s a potential top five pick.
When you dive a little deeper into things it’s where you begin to wonder about just how good of a pick he would be. When you are drafting college players, particularly in the top few picks, the idea is that not only do they have huge upside, but that they are also relatively polished and should be able to move very quickly through the farm system and into the Major Leagues. With Corey Ray, that may not necessarily be the case.
He’s currently striking out more often than he’s walking. For supposedly elite college hitters, that’s a big red flag. Generally speaking, top end college hitters walk significantly more than they strikeout. The other two top college hitters in the class both walk nearly twice as often as they strikeout.
Ray is currently sporting a .327 average. As noted above, that’s not great for supposedly one of the top bats in the draft. But when we also factor in that the Louisville Cardinals as a team are hitting .332, that’s even more concerning. His .395 on-base percentage is also worse than the team average of .419. He is doing well in the power department where his team is sitting at .501 and he’s at .618. Still, being worse than his own team as a whole in both average and on-base percentage doesn’t exactly inspire confidence that he’s a guy who is polished and ready to glide through the farm system in a quick fashion.
This of course isn’t to say that he would make for a poor pick in the draft. If the team believes that he can handle center field on the defensive side of the ball, there’s a lot to like. He’s got power that will play right now. He’s got speed on the bases, and while he’s not a burner, he’s an above-average runner. He should eventually hit for a good average as well. There’s potential for a very well rounded game with Ray if he’s able to stick in center field over the long haul.
With all of that said, I do believe that there should be some caution exercised with the Louisville outfielder. There are some question marks that come with his game currently. He’s probably not going to be a very fast mover through the system and his numbers this season don’t exactly scream that he’s the most polished player either. There’s some risk involved with taking this kind of player. With six weeks remaining until the draft, and plenty of the college baseball season left to be played, Corey Ray could go out and answer these questions. For right now though, he’s got more than a few question marks attached to him that remain unanswered.