Braves: Austin Riley is the Opening Day starter, but the competition remains open

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With Johan Camargo battling a hamstring tweak, Austin Riley received both starts at third base in the Braves two exhibition games against the Marlins. And yesterday, he showed Brian Snitker the kind of explosive offense he offers when things are clicking.

In both of his at-bats, Riley went yard, and neither of them was a wall scraper. He’s shown throughout both Spring Trainings that his woes from the second half of last season are in the rearview mirror. If that’s the case, there is no questioning that he should be the everyday third baseman in Atlanta, and Brian Snitker acknowledged yesterday that he would be the starter on Opening Day.

However, Snitker didn’t shut down the competition completely, leaving the door open for Camargo whenever he returns.

Camargo’s been equally as impressive throughout Spring Training, but two things aren’t working in his favor.

The first is his tweaked hamstring. The Braves aren’t going to rush him back in a shortened season with an injury that can be disrupted so easily. We will see if the team opts to put him on the 10-day IL. Reports suggested Camargo felt fine after batting practice yesterday, but at the very least, he will need a few days to get back up to speed.

Secondly, Austin Riley’s ceiling is significantly higher. We saw first-hand what he can bring to the team right when he was called up last season. Riley has 40+ home-run power, and he’s been mighty impressive with the glove at the hot corner in Spring Training. This is his spot to lose in the long run, as he’s been regarded as the third baseman of the future for a while now. The Braves have just been waiting for him to take the job and run with it.

Hopefully, that’s what happens in the first couple of weeks of the season. The Braves can always find a role for Camargo, especially with the DH making its way to the National League. However, they cannot replace what Austin Riley offers when things are clicking for him offensively.

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