28 Apr

champing at bit

Though his path to the majors is essentially blocked, Austin Riley appears to be hitting his stride at Triple-A Gwinnett in Atlanta’s system. The former DeSoto Central High star, now in his fifth year of pro ball, has homered in three straight games and is batting .351 over his last 10. After a sluggish start to 2019, the 22-year-old third baseman is now at .253 with five homers and 16 RBIs. He also has cut down on strikeouts. “If I could figure that out, I’ll be a complete player and able to help the big league team,” he told milb.com. Riley’s power is unquestioned; he has 76 career homers. Though there was chatter in the spring about playing him at other positions (left field, first base) this year, he has played almost exclusively at third. Josh Donaldson, a big money free agent, currently occupies that spot in Atlanta, which also has Johan Camargo available for the job. But Riley, who hit .294 with 19 homers at Gwinnett and Double-A Mississippi in 2018, is champing at the bit and is going to force the Braves’ hand on his future very soon. The No. 35 overall prospect (per MLB Pipeline), Riley will be eligible for the Rule 5 draft after this season if he doesn’t make the 40-man roster.

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