Braves 2021 Player Previews: Third Base is Austin Riley’s to Lose

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Atlanta Braves

PHILADELPHIA, PA – SEPTEMBER 11: Austin Riley #27 of the Atlanta Braves at Citizens Bank Park on September 11, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

After a couple of years at the major league level, this young third baseman will get his first full season to showcase his ability at the hot corner as well as at the plate. 

It has been an exciting couple years for the Atlanta Braves third baseman Austin Riley to say the least. There were nothing short of thrilling performances when Riley first hit the scene in 2019 as he absolutely crushed the ball in the first few months of his major league campaign.

In 2019, Riley was called up that May to play left field due to Josh Donaldson being the primary third baseman. In that year, Riley appeared in 80 games and hit .226 with 18 HR, 49 RBI, and a .750 OPS.

He started off rather hot out of the gates before starting to cool off more and more as the season progressed. The most startling number was his 108 SO that year. That was worrisome, but to be somewhat expected from the rookie.

In 2020, the idea at the beginning of the season was that Johan Camargo and Riley would compete for third base, but after spring training, it seemed as if Riley had won the job.

In 51 games, Riley would go on to hit .239, 8 HR, 27 RBI, and a .716 OPS, as well as finishing with 49 SO. So, considering the amount of appearances corresponding with the amount of strikeouts, it was better.

When it came to fastballs, Riley saw 616 in 2019 and 407 in 2020 hitting .234 and .265 respectively. He got better with breaking balls, seeing 376 breaking balls with a batting average of .195 in 2019 to 262 breaking balls with a batting average of .268.

The biggest threat to Riley at the plate were offspeed pitches. In 2019, Riley saw 124 offspeed pitches and hit .280. In 2020, he saw 96 offspeed pitches and hit an abysmal .077. Although, his whiff% on offspeed pitches managed to go down from 50% to 42.6% from 2019 to 2020.

I do not expect Riley to completely lack the ability to hit offspeed going forward, but it is a bit of a shock to see those numbers.

So, as we look ahead to 2021 and a full season of Riley at third, what can we expect to see from him?

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