Scouts already viewed Ray as a future first-rounder before he erupted to hit 15 homers and steal 44 bags as a Louisville junior in 2016. The Brewers made him the fifth overall pick that June, signing Ray for $4.125 million. Since then, however, Ray has battled myriad injuries and struggled to produce when healthy, save for a 2018 campaign at Double-A Biloxi in which he totaled 27 homers and 37 steals as the Southern League's Most Outstanding Player. He failed to build upon that breakout performance in 2019, as he spent the spring trying to play through an avulsion fracture in his right hand before finally requiring a month-long stint on the injured list in May. Ray still managed to gain some Triple-A experience, albeit while batting .188/.261/.363 with a 38.7 percent strikeout rate in 53 games, and the Brewers added him to their 40-man roster in November.
While Ray still shows a high-end combination of power and speed, the confidence in his ability to apply those tools has waned in conjunction with his strikeout-heavy struggles at the plate. He paced the Class A Advanced Carolina League in strikeouts (156) in his first full season, finished second in the Double-A Southern League (176) in 2018 and owns a career strikeout rate of nearly 30 percent across his first four pro campaigns. While the Brewers think that a reduction in Ray’s pre-pitch movement with his hands and head, along with a subtle adjustment in his approach, will lead to better, more consistent contact, it is unlikely that he will be anything more than a below-average hitter.
Ray has plus speed that serves him well on the bases and in center field, where he's an above-average defender with at least average arm strength. While those qualities, as well as Ray’s left-handed power, give him a Major League floor, he will need to trim some of his swing-and-miss and impact the ball more consistently to profile as an everyday player.
Scouting grades: Hit: 45 | Power: 55 | Run: 60 | Arm: 50 | Field: 55 | Overall: 50
After a breakout campaign as a Louisville sophomore that he followed with a strong performance for the U.S. collegiate national team, Ray solidified his status as a future first-round pick by hitting 15 homers and swiping 44 bags as a junior. The Brewers made him the fifth overall pick that June, and Ray signed for $4.125 million, the largest bonus in club history. Knee surgery delayed the start of Ray's pro debut, and he never looked right upon returning, hitting for neither average nor power while spending the entire season in the High A Carolina League. Challenged with a Double-A Biloxi assignment in 2018, Ray finally looked like the player the Brewers had drafted, hitting 27 home runs and swiping 37 bags en route to honors as the Southern League's Most Outstanding Player. He was slowed early in 2019 by an avulsion fracture in his right hand that he tried to play through all spring before finally requiring a month-long stint on the injured list in May.
Ray's power-speed combo is among the best in the Minors. It didn't show in his first full season because Ray struggled to control the strike zone, often chasing pitches well out of the zone with a lengthy swing that produced a Carolina League-high 156 strikeouts. With an emphasis on picking specific pitches to hit in 2018, Ray regained his confidence at the plate and returned to his strengths, showing above-average game power and feel for using the entire field. He still struck out quite a bit and finished second in the Southern League with 176 whiffs, but the overall quality of his contact, as well as the results, were markedly better. A plus runner, Ray's 37 steals were an improvement over the 24 in his pro debut, and he's a candidate to steal 30 bags at the highest level.
Ray's wheels also serve him well in center field, where he's an above-average defender with at least average arm strength. Strikeouts will always be a concern with Ray, but his combination of strong game power, speed and defense should ultimately help to offset concerns about his low batting averages. Overall, it's the profile of potential above-average everyday player, with a fourth-outfielder floor.
Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 45 | Changeup: 55 | Control: 45 | Overall: 45
Ray is from Klein High (Spring, Texas), which spawned three first-round picks in Chris George, David Murphy and Matt Purke, and a fourth big leaguer in Josh Barfield. A swingman at Texas A&M, he became a full-time starter after the Royals made him a surprise fifth-round choice in 2014 and signed him for a below-slot $150,000. Rocked for a 6.06 ERA in his first full pro season, Ray recovered to reach high Class A in '16.
Ray his seen his stuff improve as he has gotten more regular innings in pro ball. His fastball has gone from 90-94 mph with the Aggies to averaging 94 mph and peaking at 97. Ray's splitter/changeup shows flashes of giving him as second plus offering and allowed him to dominate left-handers last year.
Ray isn't as effective against right-handers, which he can rectify by continuing to refine his spike curveball. He doesn't miss as many bats as his fastball and changeup indicate he should, mainly because he lacks consistency. Ray's future may be in the bullpen, where he could add more velocity while working shorter stints.
Scouting grades: Hit: 55 | Power: 55 | Run: 60 | Arm: 50 | Field: 55 | Overall: 55
Ray ranked as the Draft's top position prospect entering 2016 because he offered the best combination of hitting and athletic ability. A 33rd-round pick by the Mariners as an Illinois high schooler in 2013, he broke out as a sophomore and continued to star during the summer, leading the U.S. collegiate national team in OPS (.971), extra-base hits (nine) and steals (11). He built on that performance as a junior by hitting .310/.388/.545, with 15 homers and 44 steals. In June, he became the highest pick in Louisville history when the Brewers selected him with the No. 5 overall pick. Ray signed for $4,125,000, just under slot value, and was assigned to Class A Advanced Brevard County for his pro debut. In October, Ray underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee.
Ray has a quick left-handed bat and makes consistent hard contact, giving him the potential to hit for both power and average. He uses the entire field well and did a better job of managing the strike zone and making consistent contact this spring. Ray has plus speed and knows how to use it well on the bases, and no player from this year's Draft can match his combination of power and speed.
Though he has spent most of his career at Louisville in right field, Ray runs well enough to play center and should get a chance to play there in pro ball, though some scouts question his instincts. He has the offensive production and arm to profile at all three outfield positions, and obviously he'd offer the most value if he can play in the middle.