Braves 3B prospect Austin Riley hits for cycle in AFL game

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Braves 3B prospect Austin Riley hits for cycle in AFL game

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Braves catching prospect Alex Jackson leads the Arizona Fall League with five home runs, but it was another slugging Braves prospect, third baseman Austin Riley, who created a stir Thursday when he hit for the cycle in an AFL game.

Riley had a single, double, triple, home run and five RBIs to power the Peoria Javelinas to a 19-4 win against the Mesa Solar Sox at the Peoria Sports Complex, the first time he hit for a cycle at any level of baseball and the first time it’s happened in the Arizona Fall League since Logan Morrison did it Oct. 8, 2008.

“That was the first one ever, so it was kind of cool, got the ball and I’m gonna keep that,” said Riley, who had been 5-for-20 with two extra-base hits and seven strikeouts in five fall league games before Thursday’s outburst raised his average to .346 and his OPS to 1.124 in 26 at-bats, including two home runs.

Jackson, who wasn’t in the lineup Thursday, has five homers in 37 at-bats (nine games).

Austin Riley, pictured in a game last season at low Single-A Rome, is considered the best power-hitting prospect in the Braves organization. He was brought over from minor league camp as an extra for Saturday’s split-squad game against the Marlins and went 2-for-2 with a double. (Photo courtesy Rome Braves) The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Riley missed eight games with an infected elbow and went 1-for-8 in his first two games back before Thursday, when he drove balls to every part of the park.

Ronald Acuna, the Braves’ top overall prospect, also had three hits, including a double, and had a stolen base and four runs for the Javelinas, who trailed 4-0 before the bottom of the third inning and scored 19 consecutive runs. They totaled 20 hits, and Riley had three of their seven extra-base hits.

“Today was a day I needed, and I felt good at the plate,” Riley said, adding that he still doesn’t know how his right elbow got infected. “I don’t know if it was from a cactus or what; we went hiking and maybe I got poked or scratched. I woke up one morning and my whole elbow was swelled up, super sore. So I ended up missing all of last week.”

Riley, 20, had his four hits in five at-bats through seven innings, and he also hit a fly ball that was misplayed into a two-base error in the eighth inning to finish 4-for-6.

Riley pulled a two-run, line-drive homer over the left-field fence in a five-run third inning, had an RBI double in a seven-run sixth inning and completed the cycle with a two-run triple to right-center in a five-run seventh inning. He didn’t realize until just before the seventh inning at-bat that he needed a triple to complete the cycle.

“Acuna said something to me like, ‘Why didn’t you go for a triple on the double?’ I said, I don’t know, didn’t think about it,” Riley said. “Then right when I got up to bat (in the seventh inning) someone (in the stands) yelled, ‘Hit a triple,’ and it kind of registered.” He smiled and added, “I was fortunate to hit one. My slow butt.”

The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Mississippi native had two triples during the minor league season, one each at high-A Florida and Double-A Mississippi. Riley hit a combined .275 with 20 home runs, 74 RBIs and a .786 OPS in 129 games (542 plate appearances) in what was his third minor league season and second full season since being drafted with the 41st overall pick in 2015 out of DeSoto Central High School in Southaven, Miss.

He also showed off a vastly improve part of his game Thursday when he made a terrific play to stab a line drive and prevent an extra-base hit. He’s come a long way with his defense, though Riley was upset with himself for an error on a routine grounder that he tried to turn into a double play in the ninth inning.

The Braves' 19-year-old top rated prospect got behind in count 0-2, then took a pitch before hitting an opposite-field single in an Arizona Fall League game Thursday. He stole second base a couple of pitches later. (Video by David O'Brien)
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