Braves third base prospect Austin Riley is on a tear, homering nine times in his past 46 at-bats in Triple-A. Defensively, he’s about to start seeing more time in the outfield.
Riley, the Braves’ top position prospect, has manned third and first through spring training and the season. He appeared in only one game in the outfield this spring, but the prevailing thought was the Braves would give him more reps in the corner spots.
That happened Wednesday, when Riley started in left field for the Gwinnett Stripers, a game in which he homered twice. Braves manager Brian Snitker indicated earlier this week that Riley handling more time in the outfield wasn’t necessarily in the cards, but that will be the case.
“He’s going to do that a couple times a week,” Snitker said. “He’ll be able to do it. There won’t be any problem. He’s a baseball player, an athlete. It’ll be good for him.”
Riley, who’s more athletic than given credit for, is a plus defender at third. But manning the outfield will only increase his value, and perhaps be his pathway to the majors.
Josh Donaldson is cemented at third base for the 2019 season. The Braves paid him $23 million. Freddie Freeman handles first base daily, rendering Riley’s skills there of minimal impact.
While the Braves could theoretically work Riley into the outfield, it wouldn’t be regularly. It’s better for his development to play in Triple-A every day.
But in the event of an injury to a regular, the more spots Riley can play the better. He’s expected to contribute at some point this season, even if it’s in September.
“You never know what break might come here,” Snitker said.
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