Braves: Austin Riley refining swing despite MVP level success

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Austin Riley isn’t satisfied with his MVP consideration last season; he’s refining his swing despite loads of success with the Braves, according to Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“When he’s hitting, he wants to keep his front elbow bent as he works through the strike zone, instead of having it extended all the way out,” Justin Toscano said about Riley. “When I’m doing that,” Riley said, “I’m at my best.”

Austin Riley has become one of the most feared hitters in the league. The lumbering righty broke out in 2021, in which he accrued 4.7 fWAR and posted a .303/.367/.531 slash line. He followed it up with another monster campaign in 2022, resulting in a sixth-place finish in the MVP voting.

Riley was a first-time All-Star this season, and rightfully so. On the year, the recently extended Braves third baseman posted an .878 OPS thanks to his 38 home runs. If he had maintained his pace, he might have had a legitimate chance at winning the award.

It’s crazy to think his 2022 performance wasn’t even as good as it could have been, considering this note about his elbow placement. He put up a career-best 5.5 fWAR, ranking fourth at his position in that metric and wRC+ while smashing 38 home runs, leading all third basemen. And that wasn’t him at his best? The league should be worried.

I’m guessing ‘the best’ Riley is referring to came in July; Austin Riley had quite possibly the most impressive stretch I’ve ever seen around the time he signed the extension. Over the course of 25 games, the Braves went 18-7 while Riley hit an unbelievable 423/.459/.885 with a 270 wRC+, which led to NL Player of the Month honors.

The Braves have a handful of players that will regularly compete for MVPs moving forward, and Austin Riley is one of them. Regardless of his defensive shortcomings, Riley projects to be an All-Star player for years because of his offensive pedigree, which hasn’t even peaked yet.

Photographer: Jeff Robinson/Icon Sportswire

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