You never know what postseason moments will stick with you as the years roll along. For fans of the Atlanta Braves and devoted followers of Mississippi baseball, there’s a strong chance this one will: Former DeSoto Central High standout Austin Riley’s tie-breaking home run in the ninth inning of Monday night’s National League Championship Series opener. The 448-foot blast, on a 1-2 pitch, with actual fans in the stands, propelled the Braves to a 5-1 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers. Riley can rake: He hit 18 homers as a rookie in 2019, including one in his first game, and added eight more this season. He has had some well-documented struggles, including in this postseason and even in Monday’s game, but Atlanta manager Brian Snitker has stuck with him as the regular third baseman. Riley’s bomb, which sent the Braves’ dugout into a frenzy, had to evoke a feeling of tremendous gratification for all involved. As teammate Freddie Freeman told mlb.com: “For him to have that moment, the biggest home run of his life, I’m just so happy for him.” … BTW: Former Mississippi Braves star Max Fried and the Dodgers’ Walker Buehler put on a good show as the opposing starters in Game 1 at Arlington, Texas, but tonight’s matchup might be even better: M-Braves alum Ian Anderson against Clayton Kershaw. … A trivia question: Who is the all-time leader in MLB wins by a former M-Braves pitcher? Answer: Charlie Morton, with 93. Morton, who pitched for the M-Braves in 2007, also has six postseason wins, including Monday’s Game 2 of the American League Championship Series for Tampa Bay against Houston. The 36-year-old right-hander won a ring with Houston in 2017, earning the victory in Game 7 of the World Series. (The all-time wins leader among ex-Jackson Mets is Mike Scott with 124 and among ex-Jackson Generals is Freddy Garcia with 156.) … Hunter Renfroe, who was mic’d up for the TBS broadcast of ALCS Game 1, might not be tempted to do it again. The Mississippi State product wore the dreaded golden sombrero after striking out four times and leaving four runners on base in the Rays’ 2-1 win. He was not in the lineup for Game 2 against a right-handed starter. … On this date in 1974, in Game 2 of the World Series, Belzoni native Herb Washington, representing the tying run for Oakland in the top of the ninth, got picked off first base by Mike Marshall of the Los Angeles Dodgers. The A’s lose the game but win the series in five. “Designated runner” Washington, a world-class sprinter who never batted in 105 big league games, made two other appearances in the ’74 Series but did not attempt a steal. He stole 29 bases in the 1974 season but just two more in ’75 before he was released.
If you were watching, this might seem hard to believe: According to Statcast, Austin Riley’s home run on Sunday night was just the fifth-longest by an Atlanta player since this type of data began to be collected in 2015. Former DeSoto Central star Riley’s blast, part of the Braves’ 17-hit assault in a 14-1 win against the New York Mets, was measured at 458 feet. That’s 8 feet shorter than the Braves’ best, per Statcast, a 466-footer by Ronald Acuna on May 10, 2019. Freddie Freeman has a 464-footer, Acuna a 463 and Freeman a 460. Though somehow short of the team record, Riley’s majestic homer, which struck a façade on one of CitiField’s upper decks while still rising, will no doubt stick in the memory of Braves fans. “This ball was absolutely annihilated,” said ex-Braves star Chipper Jones, who was part of the ESPN broadcast team. The 6-foot-3, 240-pound Riley, only 23, now has 19 homers in 284 big league at-bats, plus 86 bombs over parts of five minor league seasons. Yes, he needs to make more consistent contact (.225 average), but when he does barrel one up, take cover. “My God, that’s a big strong kid,” Braves manager Brian Snitker told mlb.com.
Austin Riley got the start at third base for Atlanta on Monday and produced a mixed bag of results. The former DeSoto Central High standout went 1-for-3 with a double and an RBI, his first of the Grapefruit League season. He is batting .313. The 22-year-old Riley also struck out once – for just the second time in 16 spring ABs – and committed a fielding error. Meanwhile, in the same game, Johan Camargo, the ex-Mississippi Braves star, went 2-for-3 with two RBIs as the DH. Camargo, 26, is batting .400 with a homer and five RBIs. And so, the most intriguing position battle in Atlanta’s spring camp carries on. Riley burst onto the big league scene in May of 2019, belting homers at a dizzying pace, but then slumped mightily down the stretch, suffering an injury along the way. Riley worked on his swing in the off-season and entered camp seemingly brimming with confidence. “I did have some success, and I know what I can do up here,” he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution before camp opened, “so that’s a big positive for me, mentally, because this game is so hard on you, mentally.” Playing mostly outfield in 2019 with the since-departed Josh Donaldson entrenched at third, Riley batted .226 with 18 homers, 49 RBIs and 108 strikeouts in 274 at-bats. Camargo was the regular third baseman in 2018, before Donaldson arrived, and played well (.272, 19 homers). A .269 career hitter over three campaigns, Camargo is a switch-hitter and a good defensive player at multiple positions. Braves manager Brian Snitker has indicated that keeping both Riley and Camargo on the 26-man roster to open the season is unlikely. “If you’re not playing them every day, then you’re not going to do them justice,” he told mlb.com. The consensus seems to be that the younger Riley will start the season at Triple-A Gwinnett. But spring training is far from over. Stuff happens. Stay tuned.
In a move that seemed like a long time coming, Austin Riley, the former DeSoto Central High and Mississippi Braves star, will be promoted to Atlanta today, according to multiple reports. Riley, 22, was a supplemental first-round pick in 2015 and has been ranked among the Braves’ top prospects ever since. He has been on a sizzling streak at the plate for Triple-A Gwinnett with seven homers in his last 10 games, including one – No. 15 on the season – Tuesday night. He hit 14 homers over parts of two seasons with the M-Braves and has 86 home runs in 463 pro games all told. Primarily a third baseman, he had played some left field recently for Gwinnett. The Braves are expected to put center fielder Ender Inciarte on the injured list.
The Josh Donaldson signing adds a potentially potent bat to the middle of Atlanta’s lineup and is a clear sign the Braves are eyeing more than just a division title in 2019. The move also could be seen as a signal that the Braves don’t think Austin Riley, the former DeSoto Central High star, is quite ready for everyday duty at third base. Riley spent the latter half of 2018 at Triple-A Gwinnett, where he batted .282 (.346 on-base percentage) with 12 home runs in 75 games. He has 71 bombs in four pro seasons. His defense reportedly is big league-caliber. But there’s no need to rush him. Atlanta’s No. 5 prospect (per MLB Pipeline) is only 21 — he’ll be 22 in April – and isn’t yet on the 40-man roster. Riley struck out 95 times and walked 26 over 291 at-bats at Gwinnett, so there’s still room for improvement. It’s possible that if Donaldson struggles, as he did in an injury-plagued 2018, Riley could get a midseason call-up. Though he’s never played anywhere but third base, the Braves also could try Riley in left field at Gwinnett as a way of finding him a spot. Regardless, his time will come. Mississippi baseball aficionados will just have to wait a bit. P.S. Ole Miss alum Braxton Lee cleared waivers and was outrighted to Double-A Jacksonville by Miami. Lee, a speedy outfielder, hit .176 in eight big league games last season and .233 in the minors.
Though there is no opening at third base in Atlanta at the moment, former DeSoto Central High star Austin Riley continues to build his resume, prepping for an opportunity that can’t be far off. Riley, 21, one of the Braves’ highest-rated prospects, is batting .283 with 11 homers and 46 RBIs at Triple-A Gwinnett. He extended his hitting streak to nine games on Thursday with a 3-for-5, five-RBI effort that included his fourth homer in his last eight games. He has 18 bombs this season, including six he hit at the start of the year in Double-A Mississippi. Riley’s progress this season, his fourth in pro ball, was stalled by a knee injury in early June. It took a while, but he seems fully recovered now. “I think the biggest thing was trusting that my leg was 100 percent … and being able to put all my weight on it pressure-wise, whether it’s a swing or defense,” Riley said in an milb.com story. “Just being able to trust that it’s 100 percent.” Riley isn’t on the Braves’ 40-man roster – and M-Braves alum Johan Camargo is handling third base very well — so a September call-up isn’t a foregone conclusion. But Riley stands ready. “I think he’s more than capable of helping that club win right now,” Gwinnett manager Damon Berryhill told the Gwinnett Daily Post. P.S. Former M-Braves pitcher John Gant homered for St. Louis — while also throwing 5 2/3 shutout innings to notch a win – and is now 2-for-36 in his MLB career, both hits homers. His other bomb came earlier this month and was the first since high school for the eight-year pro.
It’s a small sample size but still worth noting: Former DeSoto Central High standout Austin Riley is batting .325 (13-for-40) with three homers and 11 RBIs through his first 10 games in Triple-A. He has hit safely in eight of those games, including a four-hit, three-homer performance on Sunday, and has yet to make an error at third base. He also has two hat tricks (three-strikeout games) for Gwinnett. “It’s all about adjustments,” Riley told the Marietta Daily Journal. “Each level you move up, the pitchers get better. You never stop learning in this game.” Riley, one of Atlanta’s top-rated prospects, batted .333 with six homers in 27 games for the Double-A Mississippi Braves before his promotion. At 21, Riley is the same age as Ozzie Albies and a year older than Ronald Acuna, who are leading the “Baby Braves” contingent that has helped revitalize the big league club. Most projections have Riley making the majors in 2019, but he could force the Braves’ hand this summer. P.S. Ex-Mississippi State star Dakota Hudson is also in Triple-A and knocking on the MLB door. St. Louis’ first-round pick in 2016, right-hander Hudson is 4-1 with a 2.88 ERA in seven starts for Memphis. He is rated the Cardinals’ No. 4 prospect by MLB Pipeline. … Hunter Renfroe, the State alum who is hoping to get back to the big leagues, went 1-for-5 with an RBI double and three K’s Thursday in his first game after being sent to Triple-A El Paso. Renfroe was batting .200 with two homers for San Diego when he went on the disabled list in mid-April. … Former Petal High star Anthony Alford, sent down by Toronto earlier this week, went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts at Triple-A Buffalo on Wednesday. … Also itching for another shot in The Show is Ole Miss product Bobby Wahl, who has a 1.50 ERA, two saves and 26 punchouts in 18 innings for Triple-A Nashville in Oakland’s system. Wahl made seven appearances for the A’s last year before suffering a shoulder injury. He was dropped from the 40-man roster in the fall. … Braxton Lee, the ex-UM standout from Picayune who started this season in the majors with Miami, is currently on the DL at Triple-A New Orleans. He hit .176 in eight MLB games and is at .186 in 12 games for the Baby Cakes. … Ole Miss alum and onetime big leaguer Alex Presley, who had been at Triple-A Norfolk in Baltimore’s system, has been granted his release and is now a free agent.
That noise you hear might be Austin Riley revving his engine. The former DeSoto Central High star, who was just named Atlanta’s Double-A player of the month for April, appears ready for the move to the next level. Some would say the 21-year-old third baseman appeared ready after last season. But Riley remains with the Mississippi Braves at the moment while Atlanta continues its confounding Jose Bautista experiment. Atlanta signed the 37-year-old free agent late last month and is playing him at third base at Triple-A Gwinnett, prepping him for the big league job, where Ryan Flaherty and Johan Camargo have looked more than capable. Bautista last played third base with any regularity in 2011. And, again, he’s 37. Bautista, who has 331 big league homers (and almost as many controversial bat-flips), is hitting .250 with one homer in 36 at-bats for Gwinnett. He has made two errors in nine games at third. It’s just hard to fathom how Bautista fits with the Braves and their recent emphasis on young players from their well-stocked farm system. Riley fits. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound fourth-year pro is batting .318 with five homers, eight doubles and 18 RBIs this season. He hit .315 with eight homers for the M-Braves in 48 games in 2017. He has 57 homers in his brief pro career. His defense is solid. “Love the guy,” M-Braves manager Chris Maloney said in a recent TV interview. “Plays hard. Plays smart. Does all the little things, plus he has a lot of talent.” Riley is the future – and he certainly looks ready to be tested in Triple-A.
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.
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.