LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – The only Braves player to have more than one hit Saturday in split-squad losses to the Marlins and Phillies was a 19-year-old from minor league camp playing in his first major league spring training game.
Add third baseman Austin Riley to the list of Braves prospects who’ve made a great first impression.
Riley, the best power-hitting prospect in the organization, went 2-for-2 as a late-innings replacement in the Braves’ 8-6 split-squad loss to the Marlins at Champion Stadium. Included was a lined double to center field in the ninth inning.
“That’s the first time I’ve really seen Riley” in a game, Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “I’ve heard a lot about him, seen him in Instructional League. He’s a man. I mean, that’s real-deal right there. And (outfielder Ronald) Acuna — it’s fun watching those guys play.”
Like Acuna, Riley is a teenager who hasn’t played above low Single-A. They were teammates at low-A Rome last season before Acuna injured a thumb and missed more than half the season.
They are two of the Braves’ top five position-player prospects, and both were in minor league camp early for a minicamp the Braves had with some of their elite prospects. Minor league camp begins next week, and Acuna already has been brought over as an extra and played in five of the Braves’ nine Grapefruit League games, going 5-for-9 with two doubles including a three-hit game.
“They’re not intimidated,” said retired Braves third baseman Chipper Jones, a future Hall of Famer who’s in camp as a special instructor. “If I had gotten called up when I was in A-ball, to play in a big league game (rolls eyes) — no chance.” Jones repeated for emphasis, “No chance.”
Jones meant that he wouldn’t have been ready to handle playing in a major league spring training game with no experience above Single-A.
“Now, these guys aren’t intimidated by anything,” he said, with a tone of admiration. “It’s crazy.”
Snitker said, “It’s pretty neat what the future’s going to look like here. Probably a year from now those guys will be spelling the big leaguers, like a bunch of years ago when Prado and Escobar and all that group (was coming up), picking up the guys.”