2019 Atlanta Braves Player Review, Austin Riley

On May 15th, Austin Riley’s dreams came true. After raking for a month and a half, where his entire game was coming together, the Braves promoted Riley to the big leagues. When he was promoted, his strikeout rate was down to 21.5%, his BB-rate was 11%, and his power was through the roof as he’d already jacked 15 HRs and was carrying a 1.057 OPS. The odd thing about the promotion was that it came at a position of which he’d barely played: left field. In fact, he had played a grand total of 4 games when he was asked to become the full-time LFer due to Ender Inciarte’s injury. Surely the Braves had low expectations on the defensive side, but what they got was something different. In 474 innings in LF for the MLB club, Riley showed average to above average range with a good arm. There were a few moments early on where he looked a bit rough coming in on the ball, but after 5-6 games, that concern seemed to fade.

In a time they needed it, Riley was spectacular with the bat. In his first 19 games played, he carried a 1.069 OPS with 9 HRs and the Braves went 12-7 during that time. Unfortunately for Riley and the Braves, the league adjusted, threw him a plethora of sliders that slid off the plate, and Riley just couldn’t adjust. In his next 60 games, Riley had 81 strikeouts in 195 ABs, a 41.5% K-rate and that sparkling BB-rate he had shown up until that point diminished to a paltry 5.6%. Luckily for the Braves, Ender Inciarte came back a man possessed and hit well, and Adam Duvall performed his own magic trick to carry the team for awhile and that helped fill the void in the lineup, but the damage was done. Riley’s weakness exposed.

Fortunately for Riley, he has been a resilient young man thus far in his professional career. If you’re someone that has given up on Riley as a MLB regular, check this out.

2016

A-Ball: June 19th, 2016, Riley’s first year in Rome was not going so well. He was racking up the K’s, not hitting for power, and was even having struggles on the defensive side. It was his first time struggling as a professional as he was carrying .671 OPS in 264 PAs. All Star Break, Adjust. From June 23, through the end of the year, Riley was remarkable, carrying a .929 OPS while hitting 17 HRs and getting his defense under control.

2017

High A-Ball: June 5th, 2017, Riley had just endured a stretch of going 1-20 which brought his season OPS down to .707. His strikeouts were once again piling up. 2 days off, Adjust. From June 8th-September 4th, Riley carried an .848 OPS, received a promotion to AA, all the while lowering his K-rate and increasing his BB-rate.

2018

AAA: After destroying the ball in a month at AA at the beginning of the 2018 season (1.071 OPS), Riley was promoted to AAA where he continued to hit well, until he injured his knee. He sat for a month, rehabbed with the GCL and returned to AAA on July 12th. He struggled mightily for a month, once again racking up the K’s and was homer-less in 109 PAs. On August 9th, Riley collected the hard to do, never sought after platinum sombrero, 0-5, 5Ks. Adjust The next night, he went 4-5. From then until season’s end, he destroyed the ball, hitting 8 HRs in 96 ABs and an OPS of .978.

2019

We know the story. Killed the ball in AAA. Killed the ball for a ½ month in the MLB…then nothing. He knows the problem. He knows what he has to do. If I were a betting man, he’s working on it as I type and in 2020…

Adjust

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Author: Ryan Cothran

Ryan is the site editor and manager of Braves Journal. Follow him on Twitter.

40 thoughts on “2019 Atlanta Braves Player Review, Austin Riley”

  1. Ryan,

    I haven’t teased out the stats, but to me he appeared to be better again late in the season. Not good, but better than pure crap. More like dry crap that can be used for fertilizer.

  2. @Stu from the previous thread… this is the post that got Sam banned. I read the entire thread at the time as it unfolded and I found myself more agreeing with Sam than Dylan but I didn’t feel the need to post anything defending Sam’s arguments. The problem was (at least for me) that Sam made good arguments but in a very abrasive fashion. It’s a shame Sam got hit with the ban hammer because I really liked his writing.

  3. Riley’s a huge wild card. I agree that it’s wise to not hand him a starting job in 2020 out of the gate. An 86 wRC+ from a corner outfielder or third baseman is not going to cut it. He would be some nice Ender Inciarte insurance should they decide to keep Ender as their starting centerfielder. If Ender struggles or get hurt again, few teams would have someone as good as Riley ready to go.

    Assuming, it’s Ender in center, Acuna in right, and some platoon involving Kakes in LF, do they start Riley in AAA next year?

  4. And it was that abrasive fashion, over a long period of time, that really led to the banning. It was suspected and basically proven that Sam was having a negative impact on site participation. The day he was banned, we saw multiple people return to posting who had gone into lurking for over a year.

  5. For clarity, it wasn’t whether you found yourself in agreement with Sam or Dylan. We disagree all the time on here. And that post was certainly not the most egregious example of it, but Sam really likes to make people feel intellectually inferior. There’s no one commenter who provided very little by way of writing that had that impact on people.

    And like it or not, but we need outside writers. In my conversations with Sam over email, I became convinced that he was going to be the #1 antagonist towards getting people from outside platforms, especially Twitter (for some reason), to write for this site. So if you’re going to degrade people in the comments (once again, not just the Dylan post), you’re going to be threatened with banning by Mac, Alex, and myself and not change, and you’re going to be a huge antagonist to what we’re trying to do going forward, then go start your own blog. And give them 10,000 words about soccer.

  6. When I first saw Riley in Low A, pitchers were feasting on him by throwing one inside fastball to get him conscious of it and then going away with the breakers. He had no idea how to cover both halves of the plate and struck out a lot. Sound familiar?

    The adjustment he made then was to always set up for pitches away while incorporating a little wobble in his hands and front elbow as the pitch is delivered. This allowed him to continue the wobble on inside fastballs or to use the movement as his hitting trigger on the away pitches.

    This is a difficult adjustment to maintain! There is a reason very few big leaguers use their hands as their trigger as it can result in a moving start position and only Wade Boggs and Ichiro! can get away with that. In AAA last year he had largely quieted his hands pre-swing and was using a more traditional step trigger. It looked to me that he was caught in between techniques as the summer wore on. I expect to see the step back with little/no hand movement this spring.

    Oh, and I expect an 800+ OPS this year.

  7. I’m still a believer in the kid!
    I also believe that the braves don’t win the east without him. He came up at a time where seemingly everyone was struggling offensively and played well until they started to hit the ball again.

  8. I never had a lot of confidence in Austin Riley, so the way he set the majors on fire in his first 19 games was a spectacular surprise to me. If anything, I now look at Riley the same way I would if someone laid 3 lottery tickets out and guaranteed 1 of those was the big winner. I would gladly take one of those 3 and clutch it with a sense of hope, because if he can adjust to the major leagues, he’s got true 40 homer power and I don’t mean with that bouncy ball they used last season.

    But he’s going to have ample opportunity to prove it from 3 possible positions, and there’s no way I would march into 2020 counting on him as a starter. It’s possible he won’t stick at the major league level even.

  9. It doesn’t necessarily have to be Riley, per se, but we would need the production you’d hope for out of Riley (800+ OPS and average to above average defense) out of 3B or LF, if not both. I would think that if Riley is once again crushing the ball in AAA, and Nick Markakis is producing his pedestrian .750 OPS with mediocre defense (regardless of what his metrics said about his LF work), Riley will find his way into the lineup.

    I mean, they’re not going to play Nick Markakis over a hot-hitting Austin Riley, right? Right?

    Right?!

  10. @7 – That is an excellent analysis and not something that is evident from watching TV. I really appreciate that insight. I hope you’re right about the 800 plus ops.

  11. @12 I don’t think many of us have any confidence that Snit will sit Markakis with his pedestrian .750 OPS. I mean, why start now?

  12. @6

    Thanks for finally telling us about Sam, months after the event, while some of us had been asking.

    That must have been about the same time you mentioned here someone you knew and disliked to the extent that you were trying to set him up to meet in some bar where you could punch him in the face, hard. The addition of ‘hard’ not only gratuitous but indicative of obvious relish, imbalance..

    So we have to take that stuffed down our throats on a baseball blog while poor old Sam gets the boot for being cleverer than you. Dear me. Of course he could be irritating – I had called him out a couple of times for his own brand of bully boy stuff towards Chief, which he took with grace.

    How is your other ‘Mean Blog’ going? Does it make you feel good? You had said it would. Exposing its thrust here in that way on us you should have resigned. Sam did not have a mean bone in his body – he was just silly and a great writer. You will continue in you and your chums own way while the gentle exit of good people here continues. I suspect Mac would have loathed you.

    Leave it up, if you can. Look for someone to hit perhaps.

  13. @15 What good people have exited? I took a little break from commenting down the stretch and through the playoffs. What did I miss?

  14. Sam, is that you?

    Do I have another blog?

    Sam is definitely more clever than me. Not a high bar to hurdle.

  15. Rob Copenhaver
    Never one to curry favor
    Runs a meanie of a blog
    For asking others to get along

    Seriously folks, go back to the quoted thread and count how many times Rob and Alex asked Sam to tone it down. Sam worked for that ban (and I usually agree with Sam, btw).

  16. Blazon,
    I’m not sure why you’ve targeted me in the past, and I’ve yet to take the bait, but as a moderator here, those words are deplorable. Running a blog is really difficult and you’ve been quick to judge and not quick to help the cause.

    I’m guessing you see me as one of Rob’s chums, but you might not know that I’m a social/emotional elementary education teacher well before I’m an academic teacher. Whether you want to know it or not, Sam and his inhospitable nature ran off many people from this site and many others before even giving it a shot, including some of my close, personal friends. And no, that decision didn’t come from me, nor would I have ever tried to sway Rob one way or the other.

    What’s not going to happen, anymore on this place, are outright insults to the people that pour words and their unpaid time into this place.

    You’ve been warned.

  17. That must have been about the same time you mentioned here someone you knew and disliked to the extent that you were trying to set him up to meet in some bar where you could punch him in the face, hard. The addition of ‘hard’ not only gratuitous but indicative of obvious relish, imbalance..

    I would like to respond to this specifically since I do see how I misspoke or at least didn’t expound on what I said.

    If I was at a bar with a bunch of Braves fans, I’d be having a great time. I really wish there were more Braves fans down here. And if I was in a bar with a bunch of Braves fans, and the human form of Sam was acting the way digital form of Sam was acting, I’d pick up my drink and walk to the other side of the bar. But the problem is that the digital form of Sam is akin to him yelling across the bar some “sh*t talk” to me after I walked away. That’s what he does. I’d mostly ignore him, but if every now and again he actually had something good to say, I would probably talk to him about a topic here and there, but I’d really want to not talk to him much at all.

    The problem is that the digital form of Sam suggests that he wouldn’t stop. So I’d probably nudge the bartender and ask, “What’s up with this guy?” Barkeep would say, “He’s just like that. He doesn’t get along with a lot of people, but whatever, he’s mostly pretty funny.” But then he comes over to me and he stays being more… him. And I’d say, “Dude, just leave me alone.” And he’d be continue to be Sam. So I’d say, “You really need to leave me alone.”

    And as far as I know, that’s really where it ends with people, at least in my experience. In fact, I’ve never had anything that’s approached anything close to that. But I’m not going to leave the Braves bar because of this guy. So anyway, at this point, he just won’t quit, and I give him one final warning. Bartender says, “Hey man, c’mon, what are you doing here?” He doesn’t take me very seriously. After all, he’s superior, and he knows it. And I’ve never done this before in real life (well, not since middle school), but I might very well punch him in the face. And he’d deserve it.

    Have I ever done that? No. Do I think I will ever have to be put in that position? No, but in that cocktail of craziness, if it ever did happen to me in real life, yeah, I might very well deliver one. But c’mon, it’s a bar full of Braves fans in the middle of St. Frickin’ Petersburg, FL. And the only thing that was ruining it was Sam, the barkeep couldn’t do anything about it, and I couldn’t do anything else about it, yeah, he might get one.

    How ’bout them Braves?! So many free agent signings!

  18. Comments won’t link right since I’m on my tele. #55 is the comment blazeman has taken offense with. #43 sets it up a little.

  19. Rob- I’m sorry to see you give this up. This is a pretty thankless job and it must really suck when people take needless shots at you. Ryan is great and we all appreciate everything you guys do, but I hate to see you go out this way. I hope you will still be around.

  20. Rob, please don’t go. You are part of a great tradition, and you’ve served us well.

    Re!levers are cromulent. You are not.

    Act your age, blazon. You should be ashamed.

  21. Still the best place on the internet.
    and @7 posts like these are one of the reasons.

    Thanks, Rob, you did an amazing job running this place.

    Go Braves!

    Edit: What? I didn’t get it… Don’t you dare leave, Rob! Come on, man. Just don’t.

  22. Rob, thanks for all you do and all you’ve done. I’m glad that you said yes to taking Braves Journal over. It’s been my favorite website since I found it. Hope you enjoy being back in the bleachers with me!

    Blazon, I hope there aren’t hard feelings.

  23. Rob, I would rather you not go. Hopefully, not running the site doesn’t mean you won’t be participating. We’re all better off with you involved. I also hope this was something you’ve been pondering for a while and not related to events in this thread.

    I know Ryan will be great, too. Change is hard and your editing, improvements, and oversight of this site have been some of the very things that brought me here and keeps me here.

    To quote Rafiki, “The past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it ….. or learn from it.”

    And the ultimate tribute to Braves Journal, also from Rafiki, “Can’t cut it out, it will grow right back.”

  24. I’m so sorry; I didn’t mean to portray that I wasn’t going to be around. I’ll definitely be around. I asked Ryan to take over the site shortly before the Sam blow up. That only really exacerbated the desire to stop being the person who managed some of this stuff.

    It’s the Sam’s and the blazon’s of the internet world that I’m glad this site has a lot less of. I kept the site going for almost a couple years, but I consider the site being largely rid of those types as the thing that I’m proud of. blazon’s on record as having thrown cats off roofs, and yet has gone on this website bi-weekly to trash me as a bad person and then Ryan for whoknowswhat. It’s funny who you defend, blazon, as Sam referred to people who throw cats off roofs as sociopaths. Wouldn’t that put you in that group? Man, it’s nice just being a denizen, and that’s really the only thing I wanted to get off my chest.

    At any rate, please let me be positive again. As I said, it’s a hard enough job to keep the content flowing, and Ryan has done a tremendous job of doing it, and I’m so glad that he’s going to take over the site. Between the apparel, the additional content, and the podcast, Ryan has already done more for the site than I ever could. And I’ll be first in line to continue to help him push the site forward. He’s worked incredibly hard already that it’s the least I can do.

    I’ll put up a post in the morning more formerly announcing Ryan void of the negativity I have towards the Sam Hutcheson’s and the Poetry Boy’s of the internet world. I’ve really enjoyed everything the site has become since Ryan started getting involved, and it’s only going to get better.

  25. A few thoughts for discussion:
    1. I have no issue at all with Rob continuing or with Ryan starting.
    2. I think the site needs something like a “3 judge panel” to handle banishments (hopefully few and far between). Partly to make sure it isn’t petty or off a rational basis, but also to give it more legitimacy.
    I would volunteer to serve on such.
    3. I frequently found Sam’s conduct to be more than a little annoying.
    4. I think IF a frequent poster is banished, then that should be posted to the whole group at the same time.
    5. Blazon, I have followed your postings for 10 years. Over the past 6 months or so, they are increasingly negative. There is more evidence freely discoverable on this site of Sam’s unreasonable and “horse’s ass” behavior by a factor of 3 to 10 than Rob’s. If Sam’s is the Major Leagues, Rob is in Advanced A ball. Your wit and insights are usually appreciated, but you don’t have to put so much piss and vinegar on the scones.

  26. @cliff
    Your point 2 is really good, and while I’m going to be taking Rob’s spot, I’d rather not be part of that threesome. Like Mac and Rob, I’ll offer up the warnings, but would rather the final decision be in other’s hands.

  27. @ 33, 34:

    I am a judgmental old fart who doesn’t like anybody very much. Bad manners, mine excepted, irritate me. I would be a poor choice to serve as part of the triumverate, but I volunteer to do so if needed.

    Braves Journal forever!

  28. I’ve long made a habit of skipping blazon’s posts, finding them almost universally inscrutable. Looks like I haven’t missed much.

  29. JC’d from previous.

    Ryan @ 19

    ‘you have been warned’. You are starting to remind me of those wholesome lads who hung around the beer halls of Munich in the early thirties.

    We are not in your fifth grade class.

    coop @ 27

    et tu Brute…shame eh, this will prove positive.

    AAR @ 29…there was none after he went until he followed you @32. Typical. I want to thank you most sincerely for all the help and encouragement you gave me in what I would term friendlier, more collegial days. Also, it’s now apparent Analytics with their new champion here have taken over and let me the first to admit that has the support of the the great majority here. So, if i’m allowed to be anywhere at all it will be quietly in the corner, like a good little boy for Ryan. If i choose to stay you can rest assured that neither of today’s two topics will I mention again. They have been well aired and one of them has produced a positive result.

    Alex my friend, thank you again for a decade of support.

  30. #5——I haven’t posted on this site for some time, although in season I visited almost daily, not to cast any aspersions, but now that I see the biggest reason I stopped posting is no longer here, I’ll try to weigh in occasionally.

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