On a night the Hawks had to settle for the Nos. 8 and 10 picks in the NBA draft lottery, a night the Braves lost 14-3 to the Cardinals and Mike Foltynewicz’s ERA rose to 8.02, about the only good news for Atlanta sports fans came from Buffalo, N.Y.
That’s where Austin Riley hit his 13th home run in his past 18 games, this one a grand slam, for the Braves’ Triple-A farm team, the Gwinnett Stripers.
Through the late innings of the Braves’ loss to the Cardinals, the question loomed large about whether it was time, if not past time, to bring Riley to the big leagues. Magnifying the question was outfielder Ender Inciarte’s departure from Tuesday’s game at SunTrust Park with lower back tightness. And early this morning, the AJC’s Gabe Burns confirmed the Braves will promote Riley.
Riley played his regular position of third base for Gwinnett on Tuesday, but he had started four of the previous five games in left field, a clear sign the Braves were expanding his potential avenues for reaching the big leagues. He also has gotten some playing time at first base.
Riley’s bat has many Braves fans eager for his arrival. He has hit 10 home runs in May, which is only at its mid-point, tying the Gwinnett record for most homers in one month. For the season to date, he leads the International League in home runs (15) and RBIs (39) and has a .299 batting average and 1.058 OPS.
MLB.com released an early-season update of its “MLB Pipeline” prospects rankings this week and rated Riley as the Braves’ No. 4 prospect. You might rightly wonder: Who’s ahead of him? Pipeline ranked Cristian Pache, the Double-A Mississippi Braves’ 20-year-old center fielder, as the organization’s No. 1 prospect, followed by pitchers Kyle Wright and Ian Anderson at Nos. 2 and 3, respectively. But for the moment, most of the buzz is deservedly about Riley.
TODAY’S LEADOFF LINKS
> Zion Williamson to New Orleans makes the Hawks’ luckless lottery even worse, Mark Bradley writes.
> The Hawks will have two top-10 draft picks. Not bad, but not what could have been, Chris Vivlamore writes.
> Bad lottery luck shouldn’t be a bummer for the Hawks, Michael Cunningham writes.
> Since returning from the injured list, Foltynewicz hasn’t been close to replicating his All-Star form of 2018, Burns reports.