03 May

what’s up with that?

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.

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