Shuckers' Ray enjoys a night of firsts

Brewers No. 6 prospect leaves yard twice in four-hit effort

Corey Ray leads the Southern League with 20 extra-base hits and is tied for first with 75 total bases. (Michael Krebs/Biloxi Shuckers)

By Gerard Gilberto / | May 15, 2018 11:58 PM

It took only three pitches for Corey Ray to accomplish something he'd never done as a professional. Two at-bats later, he recorded another first.

The Brewers' No. 6 prospect went deep twice, logging his first multi-homer and first four-hit game, as Double-A Biloxi fell to Pensacola, 10-8, on Tuesday at MGM Park. Ray, who has five roundtrippers this season and three in the past three days, also stole his seventh base.

Video: Biloxi's Ray cranks second homer

A 2016 first-round pick out of the University of Louisville, Ray struggled in his first full season with Class A Advanced Carolina, although he was working his way back from surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. In 112 games, he batted .238/.311/.367 with 24 stolen bases but found it difficult to translate his raw power, totaling seven homers and 48 RBIs.

"Last year, I wanted to do well and I told myself I wouldn't let the injury be an excuse for me not doing well," Ray told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel in March. "This year, I just want to stay healthy and continue to get better. ... The goal is just get better and be the best player that I can be."

Gameday box score

Ray's most glaring issue in 2017 was his Carolina League-leading 156 strikeouts and 31 percent strikeout rate, but he's lowered that mark to 23 percent while batting .269 in 174 plate appearances this season. He had great success when putting the bat to the ball, finishing last year with a .346 BABIP, which was ninth-best on the circuit.

The surgery followed a brilliant junior season with the Cardinals in which he showed off his impressive power-speed combination. He clubbed 15 homers and stole 44 bases before signing for a Brewers-record $4.125 million bonus as the No. 5 overall Draft pick. The Chicago native combined to hit .239 in 60 games between Class A Wisconsin and Class A Advanced Brevard County, but his five homers and 10 steals provided a glimpse of his potential.

"Wherever I go, [I just want to] be the best player on the field," Ray told the newspaper, "be the most consistent player that I can possibly be and just do my best. Get in a routine and stick to that routine every single day and wherever the chips fall is where they fall."

Video: Ray's lead-off homer for Biloxi

Against the Blue Wahoos on Tuesday night, Ray jumped on the first pitch from Reds No. 9 prospect Vladimir Gutierrez in the opening frame and lined it over the fence in right-center field. He wasted little time against the right-hander in the third, sending a 1-0 pitch to the opposite field for a two-run shot that scored Adrian Houser. The Shuckers starting pitcher, a .250 lifetime hitter, led off the frame with his first hit of the season.

Having displayed his power, it was time to see Ray's speed in the fifth. The 23-year-old outfielder dumped a leadoff single into left and swiped second before advancing on a wild pitch and scoring on a base hit by Brewers No. 18 prospect Jake Gatewood.

MiLB include

Ray collected his fourth hit as a leadoff batter in the seventh, again going the opposite way for his team-leading 12th double. He got another chance in the eighth but ended a two-run rally by flying to left.

Gatewood singled three times in four at-bats and notched his first steal of the season.

Reds No. 12 prospect Aristides Aquino also went yard twice -- his 10th two-homer game during an eight-year career in the Minors -- and drove in three runs. Fifth-ranked Shed Long added three hits, scored three runs and drove in two, while Gutierrez yielded four runs on six hits and a walk with eight strikeouts over 4 1/3 innings.

Gerard Gilberto is a contributor to Follow and interact with him on Twitter, @GerardGilberto4. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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