06 Mar

heating up

Don’t look now, but Austin Riley – who has been getting advice from Chipper Jones this spring – is starting to hit. The ex-DeSoto Central High star went 2-for-3 with a homer today in Atlanta’s 5-1 Grapefruit League win over Toronto. After an 0-for-8 start in Florida, the 20-year-old third baseman is now 4-for-19 with two bombs, four RBIs and four runs. Riley graciously gives some credit to Jones. “It’s been an honor to be around that type of player and pick his brain about, really, the mental side of hitting and the importance of trying to get inside the pitcher’s head,” Riley told mlb.com. Riley, a top 10 Braves prospect, is in camp as a non-roster invitee. He’ll likely play at Triple-A Gwinnett this season and could make the majors in 2019. He hit .275 with 20 homers and 74 RBIs overall last season at high Class A Florida and Double-A Mississippi. For what it’s worth, he looks the part of a third baseman: 6 feet 3, 220 pounds. And he has the arm to play there.

18 Jul

sneak preview

Austin Riley is projected by Baseball America to be Atlanta’s third baseman by 2020. The former DeSoto Central High star has climbed the minor-league ladder at a good pace, reaching the Double-A level midway through his third pro season at age 20. He’ll make his much-anticipated Trustmark Park debut on Wednesday as the Mississippi Braves open a 10-game homestand during which Riley will have a chance to display the power bat and rifle arm that enticed the Braves to draft him 41st overall in 2015. Riley, 6 feet 3, 220 pounds, is 4-for-18 for the M-Braves to date; he hit his first Double-A homer on Monday at Pensacola. He doesn’t arrive in Pearl with quite the same pizzazz that accompanied Ronald Acuna, but Riley is rated among the top 18 prospects in Atlanta’s loaded system by three different publications. He has already had a decorated minor league career, making Baseball America’s rookie-level All-Star team in 2015 and low Class A team in 2016. He was a midseason All-Star pick in the high-A Florida State League last month and was batting .252 with 12 homers for Florida at the time of his promotion. MLB Pipeline’s scouting report notes that Riley, like many young sluggers, needs to be more selective at the plate, cut down on strikeouts and draw more walks. But his raw power excites, and how that tool plays at Trustmark Park will be something to watch for. … Riley, who was born in Memphis but grew up in Southaven, joins the list of Mississippians to play for the M-Braves that includes Zack Bird, Jay Powell, Michael Rosamond, John Thomson, Van Pope and Brent Leach.

14 Jul

going places

New level, no problem for Atlanta prospects Austin Riley and Ronald Acuna. Former DeSoto Central High star Riley went 2-for-4 in his Double-A debut with the Mississippi Braves on Thursday night, while Acuna, promoted from the M-Braves to Triple-A Gwinnett, homered and added two more hits for the G-Braves. Riley, a first-round supplemental pick in 2015, is rated the No. 11 prospect in Atlanta’s system by Baseball America and No. 12 by MLB Pipeline. The 20-year-old played third base and batted third for the M-Braves in a 2-0 win at Pensacola. He was batting .252 with 12 homers at high Class A Florida after belting 20 bombs at low-A Rome in 2016. Travis Demeritte, also regarded as a prospect, moved back to second base from third in Thursday’s game for the M-Braves; Demeritte has 11 homers but is hitting just .211. (The M-Braves’ next home game is July 19.) In Charlotte, N.C., on Thursday, the 19-year-old Acuna, BA’s No. 10 overall prospect, played right field and batted leadoff in the G-Braves’ 13-4 victory. After fanning in his first at-bat, he went yard in his second. He scored three times and drove in two runs. Acuna, who began this season with the high-A Florida club, hit .326 with nine homers – including a shot over the Trustmark Park batter’s eye on Tuesday – 30 RBIs and 19 steals in 57 games for the M-Braves. He played in the All-Star Futures Game on Sunday. The Braves may be considering adding Acuna to the big league roster if they are still in the playoff hunt in the season’s final weeks. He could be a difference-maker.

06 Mar

future’s so bright …

Former DeSoto Central High standout Austin Riley got to rub elbows with the Atlanta big leaguers over the weekend and apparently did not look out of place. Riley, 19, a supplemental first-round pick by the Braves in 2015, went 2-for-2 in a Grapefruit League game on Saturday and 0-for-2 with a walk on Sunday. Braves manager Brian Snitker was impressed. “I’ve heard a lot about him, seen him in Instructional League. He’s a man. I mean, that’s real-deal right there,” Snitker, the former Mississippi Braves manager, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Riley, 6 feet 3, 220 pounds, is rated the No. 8 third base prospect in the minors by MLB Pipeline and is a consensus top 15 in the Braves’ stacked system, which is rated No. 1 overall by MLB Pipeline and Baseball America. Riley played at the low Class A level in 2016, batting .271 with 20 homers in his first full year in Atlanta’s system, and he has 32 homers in 189 pro games. He figures to start 2017 with the high-A Florida Fire Frogs in the Florida State League and arrive at Double-A Mississippi next season, though that timetable can certainly change. As highly regarded as he is, Riley isn’t one of the seven Braves players ranked among the top 100 prospects by MLB Pipeline. That list does include 2016 M-Braves Dansby Swanson, Ozzie Albies and Sean Newcomb. “It’s pretty neat what the future’s going to look like here,” Snitker told the AJC. P.S. Tyler Moore is making a strong bid to stick with Miami. The Mississippi State product from Brandon smacked his third homer of the spring on Sunday and is batting .462. Limited by injuries in 2016, the right-handed hitting first baseman hit three homers in 25 games for Triple-A Gwinnett in the Braves’ organization. He signed a minor league deal with the Marlins in the off-season. Moore has 24 MLB homers spread over four seasons, all with Washington.

16 Sep

in other news

There was a celebration at Trustmark Park on Thursday night, but it was the “bad guys” who threw down. The Jackson (Tenn.) Generals claimed the Southern League pennant with an 11-3 win against the Mississippi Braves that completed a 3-0 sweep. So … enough about that. In the Class A South Atlantic League, former DeSoto Central High star Austin Riley hit a home run – his 22nd of the year – to help the Rome Braves move to within a victory of the championship in the low-A loop. Rome beat Lakewood 2-0 on Thursday to take a 2-1 series lead with Game 4 set for tonight in New Jersey. “We’re ready to get after it,” Riley told milb.com. Riley’s star is rising. At age 19, in his first full pro season, he hit .271 with 20 homers and 80 RBIs for Rome, making Baseball America’s All-Low Class A team at third base. The 41st overall pick in 2015, he is currently rated Atlanta’s No. 6 prospect by BA and No. 13 by mlb.com with an ETA in the big leagues of 2019. “Riley has the makings of an impact run-producing hitter,” writes MLBPipeline. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound right-handed hitter could be in Mississippi sometime next summer. That should give M-Braves fans a little lift.

27 Jan

future stars

The Atlanta Braves are all about the future, and former DeSoto Central High star Austin Riley could be a big part of that future. After a smashing pro debut, Riley has been rated the sixth-best third base prospect by MLBPipeline, which says he might have been “the steal of the 2015 Draft.” Riley was picked 41st overall by the Braves and proceeded to hit .304 with 12 home runs and 40 RBIs in 60 games at two levels. He made 16 errors, but that’s not a red flag at this point. Still just 18, Riley goes 6 feet 2, 230 pounds and has a strong arm. It’ll be a couple years before he gets to Double-A Mississippi (and perhaps a couple more before he makes The Show), but for Braves fans, that’s something to daydream about. … Ke’Bryan Hayes, son of Hattiesburg native and ex-big leaguer Charlie Hayes, is No. 5 on the third base prospect list, which is published on mlb.com. Hayes, a Texas native, is in the Pittsburgh system. … Riley is the third Mississippian to appear on an MLBPipeline top 10 prospect list: Harrison Central alum Bobby Bradley (Cleveland) made it at first base and Northwest Mississippi Community College product Cody Reed (Cincinnati) is on the left-handed pitcher chart. … Ex-East Central CC star Tim Anderson, who could be on the shortstop prospect list when it is released today, has gotten an invitation to the Chicago White Sox’s big league spring camp. Anderson hit .312 with five homers, 46 RBIs, 79 runs and 49 stolen bases for Double-A Birmingham in 2015.

24 Sep

high praise

Austin Riley, the ex-DeSoto Central High star, was rated the No. 2 prospect in the Appalachian League by Baseball America. Riley, drafted 41st overall by Atlanta in June, batted .351 with five homers and 19 RBIs in 30 games for Danville in the rookie Appy League. He hit seven homers in 30 Gulf Coast League games before his promotion. BA’s Hudson Belinsky had a lot of good things to say about Riley in an on-line chat on the magazine’s web site. To wit: “Riley has a chance to stay in the dirt (at third base) and has a chance to be a middle-of-the-order bat. (Houston prospect Kyle) Tucker’s track record is stronger, and he surged towards the end to cement himself as the (league’s) top prospect, but Riley’s surge is real.” … Riley is on Atlanta’s Instructional League roster, along with former Murrah star Zack Bird and John Gant, both of whom pitched for the Mississippi Braves this season, and Southern Miss product Bradley Roney, who pitched in A-ball.