Braves promote top prospect Austin Riley and plan to use him more in the outfield, report says
Riley is a long-term fit at third, but he'll play the corner outfield for now
The Atlanta Braves are set to promote Austin Riley, who is arguably viewed as their top position player prospect, according to The Athletic's David O'Brien. Riley could be called up from Triple-A Gwinnett in time for Wednesday's game against the St. Louis Cardinals -- stream regionally via fuboTV (Try for free). Riley, a third baseman with raw power, is ranked as the No. 34 overall prospect by MLB.com.
Outfielder Ender Inciarte left Tuesday's game against the Cardinals in the fourth inning with lower back tightness and MLB.com's Mark Bowman reports that the Braves are expected to place Inciarte on the 10-day injured list, which would open a roster spot for Riley.
Riley has had some experience playing left field in the minors, and he will probably take over at left in the majors while Ronald Acuna Jr. moves to center field, Bowman adds. More from Bowman:
Riley's promotion comes one week after the Braves opted to add to his versatility by allowing him to begin playing the outfield. Before handling his regular third-base duties Tuesday night, he had started four of the past five games in left field.
While Inciarte is sidelined, Ronald Acuña Jr. will likely play center field and Riley will serve as the Braves' left fielder. His introduction to the outfield was influenced by the fact that his path to the Majors this season was blocked by veteran third baseman Josh Donaldson, who signed a one-year, $23 million deal in November.
Riley, 22, has hit .299/.377/.681 with 15 home runs and a 1.057 OPS in 37 games at Triple-A. In what was probably his last minor league game for a while, Riley hit a grand slam in Tuesday's win over Buffalo.
Riley is the latest in a flurry of big-time prospect call-ups. He joins, , , and in the bigs.
The reigning NL East champions have gone 5-5 in their last 10 games and entering Wednesday, they sit at .500 and in second place behind the Phillies. They'll continue a three game series with the Cards on Wednesday.
CBSSports.com fantasy writer Scott White views Riley to be realizing the full extent of his power potential, as well as cutting down on his strikeout problem.
Riley has always been highly regarded specifically for his power potential, earning a 70 grade on the 20-80 scale from Baseball America this preseason. It's the same grade that that particular publication awarded Pete Alonso for his power, which is to say it's especially rare. And Riley seems to be realizing the full extent of it in the same year he has made significant headway on his strikeout problem, cutting his rate from 29.3 percent last year to 19.7 percent this year.
Yes, it looks like it's all coming together for the young third baseman. The latest piece to the puzzle: Ender Inciarte's removal from Tuesday's game against the Cardinals because of back tightness. It's fair to assume then that Riley's arrival is as an injury replacement, meaning there are no promises with regard to opportunity. The Braves had already been experimenting with him in left field, though, presumably with the idea he'd replace Inciarte outright. Maybe Inciarte's injury accelerated the timetable, or maybe Riley's own bat did. Either way, it's reasonable to assume the young slugger will stick if he hits.
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