On May 15th, Austin Riley’s dreams came true. After raking for a month and a half, where his entire game was coming together, the Braves promoted Riley to the big leagues. When he was promoted, his strikeout rate was down to 21.5%, his BB-rate was 11%, and his power was through the roof as he’d already jacked 15 HRs and was carrying a 1.057 OPS. The odd thing about the promotion was that it came at a position of which he’d barely played: left field. In fact, he had played a grand total of 4 games when he was asked to become the full-time LFer due to Ender Inciarte’s injury. Surely the Braves had low expectations on the defensive side, but what they got was something different. In 474 innings in LF for the MLB club, Riley showed average to above average range with a good arm. There were a few moments early on where he looked a bit rough coming in on the ball, but after 5-6 games, that concern seemed to fade.
In a time they needed it, Riley was spectacular with the bat. In his first 19 games played, he carried a 1.069 OPS with 9 HRs and the Braves went 12-7 during that time. Unfortunately for Riley and the Braves, the league adjusted, threw him a plethora of sliders that slid off the plate, and Riley just couldn’t adjust. In his next 60 games, Riley had 81 strikeouts in 195 ABs, a 41.5% K-rate and that sparkling BB-rate he had shown up until that point diminished to a paltry 5.6%. Luckily for the Braves, Ender Inciarte came back a man possessed and hit well, and Adam Duvall performed his own magic trick to carry the team for awhile and that helped fill the void in the lineup, but the damage was done. Riley’s weakness exposed.
Fortunately for Riley, he has been a resilient young man thus far in his professional career. If you’re someone that has given up on Riley as a MLB regular, check this out.
A-Ball: June 19th, 2016, Riley’s first year in Rome was not going so well. He was racking up the K’s, not hitting for power, and was even having struggles on the defensive side. It was his first time struggling as a professional as he was carrying .671 OPS in 264 PAs. All Star Break, Adjust. From June 23, through the end of the year, Riley was remarkable, carrying a .929 OPS while hitting 17 HRs and getting his defense under control.
High A-Ball: June 5th, 2017, Riley had just endured a stretch of going 1-20 which brought his season OPS down to .707. His strikeouts were once again piling up. 2 days off, Adjust. From June 8th-September 4th, Riley carried an .848 OPS, received a promotion to AA, all the while lowering his K-rate and increasing his BB-rate.
AAA: After destroying the ball in a month at AA at the beginning of the 2018 season (1.071 OPS), Riley was promoted to AAA where he continued to hit well, until he injured his knee. He sat for a month, rehabbed with the GCL and returned to AAA on July 12th. He struggled mightily for a month, once again racking up the K’s and was homer-less in 109 PAs. On August 9th, Riley collected the hard to do, never sought after platinum sombrero, 0-5, 5Ks. Adjust The next night, he went 4-5. From then until season’s end, he destroyed the ball, hitting 8 HRs in 96 ABs and an OPS of .978.
We know the story. Killed the ball in AAA. Killed the ball for a ½ month in the MLB…then nothing. He knows the problem. He knows what he has to do. If I were a betting man, he’s working on it as I type and in 2020…