24 Mar

room for improvement

FanGraphs, the stats-driven website, doesn’t put much stock in Atlanta’s third base situation, ranking the Braves 25th among the 30 MLB clubs at the position entering 2021. That throws shade on Austin Riley, the former DeSoto Central High star who figures to get most of the playing time at third base. And he does have some things to prove, though raw power isn’t among them. He showed that off today against Pittsburgh. He mashed his first two home runs of the spring – 440 feet on a 1-2 curveball, then another deep bomb on a first-pitch sinker. He struck out in his third at-bat. Riley, 23, has 26 homers in 132 big league games but has batted just .232 with a lot of strikeouts and few walks. He hasn’t hit much in Florida this spring: 5-for-25 with one RBI before today. But neither has veteran Jake Lamb (.194, one homer), brought in presumably to push Riley for the job. The Braves have enough big bats elsewhere in the lineup that they don’t need Riley to carry them. Still, improved production would be nice. The Braves aren’t inclined to wait too long for that to happen. P.S. Mississippi State alum Adam Frazier, hitting a ridiculous .563 for the Pirates, smacked his second homer in as many days in today’s game.

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