Among the several intriguing storylines of spring training, Austin Riley’s outfield experiment had to be near the top of the list.
Typically a third baseman, The Braves have hinted that arguably their top prospect will test his ability as an outfielder this spring, making it easier to find him a role in the big leagues once he is ready. The Braves have Josh Donaldson penciled in at third base for 2019, and unless he finds himself on the DL, there is no way Riley is going to take at-bats from him. Atlanta also has Johan Camargo as a super-utility option, and they will want to give him as many plate appearances as possible as well.
With that said, the Braves need for a power bat to put behind Acuña, Donaldson, and Freeman in the order is well-documented. Riley could fill that void perfectly. That is if he can play in the outfield.
Unfortunately, fans are going to have to wait and see if that will be a possibility. According to multiple reports, manager Brian Snitker said it could be a “while” before we see Riley in the outfield.
It could be “a while” until Austin Riley plays games in outfield, Snit said. They want him working at 3B first.
— Gabe Burns (@GabeBurnsAJC) February 21, 2019
The Braves want to work him at his natural third base position first before the outfield. They still plan on testing him out there this spring to see how he handles it.
On the same day, Snit said that he would be surprised if Austin Riley doesn’t show the Braves he is ready for the majors this spring.
Snitker says he’d be surprised if by end of spring Austin Riley doesn’t show #Braves he’s ready for majors. @FOXSportsBraves
— Cory McCartney (@coryjmccartney) February 21, 2019
Riley was an admired power-hitting prospect with a cannon of an arm coming out of high school. As he has grown up, his athleticism has been a pleasant addition to his game. That athleticism, along with his stellar arm, should allow him to play the outfield with little problem. If he can, it adds a whole different dimension to a Braves team desperate for another power-bat. His production is worth keeping a close eye on for the entirety of spring training.