Ray is a 5'11" 185 lb. Center Fielder for the University of Louisville who both hits and throws from the port side. He was previously drafted out of High School by Seattle in the 33rd Round. Ray's reputation coming into 2016 was enough to generally get Top 10 pick consideration, but he's shown improvements this Spring to get more serious discussion going about him for first overall pick. When I think of First Overall picks as hitters I imagine 5-tool players. Corey Ray has that potential, but he doesn't look like he'll be Bryce Harper good. That's fine, there are quite a few players short of Harper and Trout that I'd be thrilled with, so let's look at where on that spectrum Ray might potentially fall.
For anyone who you project to Center Field, the first assessment needs to be speed. You don't need 80 grade speed for center, but you generally do need 60 grade or better, as you have a lot of real estate to cover out there. The good news is Corey Ray is fine in this area, boasting 70 grade speed. He can cover plenty of ground and gets generally good reviews on his routes. Speed has been Corey's calling card since High School, but he did struggle a bit his Sophomore year at Louisville with his base stealing. He had 34 steals, which is great, but he also had 10 Caught Stealings, which is a less than ideal success rate. He's improved his reads and jumps this year and has nearly as many steals (31) is just about two-thirds as many games with no Caught Stealing's. This was a nice step in, perhaps not eliminating, but reducing one of his red flags to a bit more of a sticky note.
The next tool you might look at for a Center Field profile is arm strength. If Ray is a 5-tool prospect, this is solidly the fifth of those tools. His arm is playable in Center, but if he gets forced off the position by a superior defensive prospect (Quinn, Tocci) or if el Torito is still doing his thing at CBP, then Ray will most likely need to move to Left Field. His arm is Average to slightly above (roughly 50-55 on the scouting scale, depending upon which report you read), so it may be playable in Right, but it would be behind Altherr, Williams, Brown and Alfaro at least). The arm strength may improve a little with a pro lifting regimen, but throwing power seems to largely be a natural gift, so improvements tend to be a half a grade on the scale (so 55-60, as the ceiling) for College players.
For any position prospect it only matters so much how good their speed and defense is, if they can't hit, who cares? So a look at Ray's hitting shows a huge improvement from year to year. As a Freshman Ray slashed .325/.416/.481 and came back as a Sophomore to slash .325/.389/.543. So we immediately see good contact ability, but also the increase in power output as Ray went from 1 Homer to 11 (plus more Doubles and Triples). So far his Junior year Ray is slashing .314/.385/.593. Yet another uptick in Power as Ray already has 11 Homers and nearly as many Doubles as last year with ~25 games to go (his Triples are down, but that's mostly luck). What the triple slash doesn't show is the improvements in approach Ray has made. As a Freshman Ray K'd at a nearly 26% clip, he improved as a Sophomore to 20.4% and so far in 2016 he's got a 16% K rate. His walk rate has stayed fairly steady, which is fine as he always walked at an acceptable clip. Two items that scouting reports noted heading into 2016 were that he struggled against Lefties and breaking balls. I haven't seen anything to show specific improvements in those areas, but logically I would assume a 20% decrease in K's may be somewhat indicative of potential improvements in those areas.
In the video below (courtesy of Prospect Junkies) you get to see all of Ray's swings from this season against Notre Dame in early March. His swing is very quiet. I could see a team adding a kick to boost his power output, but he does a good job currently keeping his head level in his swing and keeping his bat short to the ball. He chases a few pitches, so recognition of breaking stuff may still be a bit of an issue (not a judgement to make off of a 3 minute video).
I've read more scouting articles on Ray than anyone else I've written about so far (he's popular for a lot of prospect heads as he's been rumored from almost every pick from 1-10 at some point, so lots of articles about him). In a few places I've seen him called a left handed Andrew McCutchen and in a few others I saw comps to last year's Andrew Benintendi (who is currently destroying the somewhat Pitcher friendly Carolina League with a 1.000+ OPS). I'm not sure what the fascination is with comparing Corey Ray to various Baseball playing Andrews, but if he follows those tracks I'd be quite happy taking him #1. When I write these every year I have a tendency to get really tied to a few guys. Sometimes because I'm crazy (I still like Garrett Whitley and his well south of the Mendoza line numbers), sometimes because I've seen them in person and liked them (Skye Bolt, who has both an amazing real name and who I saw like 20 billion times the last 3 years, and who is playing nearly as well as Benintendi). Then there are the guys who I read about and watch clips of and just really like what I see. Ray seems to be falling into that last bucket for me. I still have a personal preference for Groome (the guy in this year's draft I saw in person), but I can say for the first time in these reviews I really wouldn't be upset if the pick was this guy.