Austin Riley busted on to the scene like few other rookies have done in the history of baseball. He hit a home run in his first game and proceeded to hit nine of them in his first eighteen games. Through a month and a half in the majors, Riley accounted for 14 longballs, seven doubles, and a .908 OPS in 43 games. Then the rookie wall came.
In his next 37 games, Riley only managed a .156 batting average with four home runs, a .513 OPS, and a gaudy 50 strikeouts. He was unable to lay off sliders outside of the zone, which later resulted in him missing fastballs right down the middle. Rightfully, there are now questions regarding how ready he is to assume the starting third base job. However, if there is one bright spot about his frustrating rookie campaign, it is that the Braves found out they could use him in both corner outfield spots without much of a defensive dropoff, which will allow Atlanta to make a serious run at re-signing Josh Donaldson.
When Anthopoulos was asked about Riley’s future with the team yesterday at the team’s season-ending press conference, this is what he had to say:
— FOX Sports: Braves (@FOXSportsBraves) October 11, 2019
Unsurprisingly, the Braves aren’t going to hand Riley a position – as it should be – but rookies going through prolonged slumps following hot starts has happened since the beginning of baseball. Look no further than the Braves’ own Ozzie Albies.
Albies began last year on fire and made the All-Star Game before turning into the worst hitter on the team in the season’s second half. Sure, there was a reason for concern, but Albies bounced back, turning into an MVP-caliber player in his second year. This will be a critical offseason for Riley, but if I had to bet, I’d say he will be starting on this team to begin next season.