News / Austin Riley
Last season Atlanta Braves rookie 3B turned left fielder Austin Riley made an instant impact for the Bravos when he came up from Gwinnett and hit like a zillion home runs his first month with the big league club. The problem was pitchers adjusted to the hot hitting rookie after he smashed 18 homers and started throwing him sliders.
Riley couldn't adjust to the slider and suddenly his historic hot streak turned into a historic cold streak as he struck out 108 in only 80 games. Riley basically was putting up Chris Davis all or nothing strike out numbers.
Well this offseason Riley spent a lot of time when not hunting wild game by going to the cages and working on not only hitting the slider but also identifying it in his zone. See the problem wasn't strictly not being able to hit the slider. He can hit it. The problem was he started swinging at pitches that were off the plate, especially the slider, and was late for the fastball.
Now that he can identify pitches he is laying off those sliders that start over the plate and end up 3-4 inches off the plate. This spring he's hit two bombs including today's highlight above off the slider and last night hit a screaming line drive off the left-centerfield fence again on the slider.
Right now Riley is in a battle with Johan Camargo for the starting 3B position. I've heard rumblings that manager Brian Snitker's preference is to have Camargo be the Opening Day 3B for the big league club and Riley start off in AAA Gwinnett. I hope this isn't the case. I personally think Riley is gonna have a huge season. He's only 22-years-old and he's the future at 3B. While Camargo is a good player I think he's more of a utility player and not necessarily an every day starter. I don't think Snitker would platoon them right now.
Riley hit 33 homers between Atlanta-Gwinnett-Rome in just 123 games. This year he's a year older, wiser, and more confident than ever he can play and perform at an elite level. I think he's gonna hit a minimum 30 long balls so why not trot him out there Opening Day as the starter? Camargo might hit 15. Riley is no slouch defensively either. Let Camargo spell relief for Riley, Dansby, and Ozzie in the infield every once in a while. If he doesn't want to do it well tough luck.