MILWAUKEE — In the nearly nine months since he was officially introduced as the Milwaukee Brewers’ general manager, David Stearns has aggressively overhauled the team’s entire baseball operation, from reshaping the front office structure to making nine trades for 16 players, in addition to a multitude of waiver wire claims.
Thursday marked another big moment in the Stearns era as he oversaw his first draft, adding three players — including No. 5 overall pick Corey Ray, an outfielder from the University of Louisville — to the organization, the latest step in a massive rebuilding process.
“He’s an exciting player to watch,” Stearns said. “He has the ability to impact the game in multiple ways, which is something we are looking for in this pick. He’s an up-the-middle position player with above-average speed. He gets on base and once he’s on base he really has the ability to disrupt the other team.”
Ray was considered one of the more advanced offensive prospects in the draft. He’s hit .319/.396/.575 with 15 home runs in 282 plate appearances as a junior this season and also stole 44 bases in 52 attempts for Louisville, which hosts UC Santa Barbara this weekend in an NCAA super regional.
Milwaukee scouting director Ray Montgomery has had his eye on Ray for awhile and thinks the Brewers are fortunate to add him to their system.
“We are thrilled to have him,” Montgomery said. “He’s a dynamic personality to start with. One of my favorites that I’ve come in contact over the past three, four, five years.
“He brings a unique speed-power combination to the profile. With his ability to get on base and agitate and irritate the other team, we are going to be in good shape.”
He’s a native of Chicago’s South Side, where he attended Simeon High School and graduated in the same class as Milwaukee Bucks forward Jabari Parker.
“We were friends,” Ray said. “Not the hang-out type of friends. But when I saw him, I said hello and when he saw me, we spoke. We would talk a lot in psychology class together. We talked a lot about sports and psychology. That was about it. I’m excited to see him, hopefully if I get to Milwaukee.”
Seattle selected Ray with their 33rd-round pick in the 2013 draft but Ray opted instead for college, where he landed on the All-ACC team and was a second-team Baseball America All-America selection following the 2015 season.
The Brewers see Ray staying in center field, despite having prospect Brett Phillips knocking on the door of the major leagues and Trent Clark, last year’s top pick, at Class A Wisconsin.
Ray is hoping to stay at the position.
“I know everyone questions whether or not I’ll stay in center field or not,” Ray said in a teleconference. “But I’m guaranteeing that I will work as hard as I possibly can to be an elite defender in center. Hopefully I can play center and do some great things in Milwaukee.”
With no unanimous No. 1 talent going into the draft, the Brewers took a wait-and-see approach. The Phillies opened the proceedings by selecting prep outfielder Mickey Moniak. Cincinnati was next and tabbed third baseman Nick Senzel out of the University of Tennessee, followed by the Braves, who went with prep right-hander Ian Anderson, and Colorado, which took another prep right-hander in Riley Pint.
“We had a broad group of guys going back even into January,” Montgomery said. “Then you start to narrow it down and I say we had it down to about 10, but no clear-cut favorite for us until we got closer and then we zeroed in and got a good feel on Corey. It’s tough. Every draft, every year brings a different set of parameters and pool of players and this was a good one.”
Milwaukee made two other picks, tabbing third baseman Lucas Erceg of NAIA Menlo College with their second-round pick (46th overall) and catcher Mario Feliciano from Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy in Puerto Rico with the 75th overall pick.